Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A Call for Action

Normally, I like to keep my blog light in tone, but I have been watching things happen and I feel the need to change the tone with this entry and I hope it will give all of you reason to think and hopefully act. I am bringing issues to the forefront that concern me and perhaps concern all of us—not just those in aviculture, and I want to see how many of us will be willing to voice your concerns as well. My friends, we are at a pivotal point in our lives and the history of our hobby and if you reside in the U.S.—our country.

I was on the phone with a friend of mine the other day and we were discussing the future of aviculture and what we thought has to be done, this friend—a very wise woman—mentioned the idea of having a summit. The purpose—to bring breeders, rescues, sanctuaries, and others together and discuss the current state of aviculture and where we need to direct it. In the past year or so, we have seen battles between breeders and rescues and the majority of us who are truly concerned about birds are leaning towards the concerns of the rescues. Five years ago, another friend of mine—another very wise woman, mentioned that one day we would reach critical mass in the U.S. with far too many psitticines and not enough homes for them—that day arrived a year ago and we need to address this issue and figure what is the best future. We have hit critical mass, and human and psitticine are paying dearly for it.

Sanctuaries and rescues are at capacity, and breeders need to stop producing birds when we already have too many. The sad fact is, many of us never really thought about the life-spans of our pets, we never considered what decades meant, many of us were used to mammalian pets and thought of years with a maximum of perhaps 17 years before our pets would pass. Many of us also did not take into consideration that we would be growing older and our pets would still require care at the same time that we would require more. We weren’t bad—we just didn’t look into the future and consider all the variables and many of us never thought the economy would dive the way it has. Yes…I am bringing the economy into this equation, I know many of us have danced around it, but it is a serious factor in what is going on. Our birds may be our passion but they can be a costly passion, although many times worth it!

The U.S. is not in need of anymore baby Blue and Gold macaws, Umbrella Cockatoos, Goffin Cockatoos, Moluccan Cockatoos, and so many more common species, we need to get those in need of homes placed before we even think of producing more. We also need to educate the bird-buying public before they make a purchase and they need to be aware of all the consequences of their purchase. Breeders need to take responsibility—they simply cannot churn out more babies in hopes of them finding homes, they need to cut back awhile and find other means of income while aviculture adjusts. I seriously doubt we will ever see days like those in the 90s or early 2000s again, where breeders could produce chicks and place them while they weren’t weaned, breeders are going to need to start realizing that they over-produced and wade through what the upcoming years will be like. Breeders, also keep in mind, when availability is low and there is a demand—you can ask more for the babies you produce, OPEC has learned this and so should you!

Another problem is money—sanctuaries and rescues depend on donations and presently not too many people have expendable funds, we all have felt the pinch somewhere and when we feel that pinch, charity starts at home unfortunately. We are already seeing sanctuaries turning away birds, we are already seeing waiting lists for placement into rescues and sanctuaries, and we are seeing people who entered aviculture with the best intentions realizing they made mistakes with the size of their flocks, and I am one of those people… My heart truly feels for rescues but I also fear that many are not being run effectively and they also will need to address some not-so-pleasant topics including euthanasia. No one in aviculture wants to address euthanasia, but many dog and cat rescues/shelters have been dealing with it for years, and it’s sad that aviculture will now more-than-likely have to deal with it and make some very tough decisions of who will be allowed to survive and what souls we will put to rest to end the madness that man has created. Do we save those that are easy to place or do we save those that have a larger monetary value? Do we even consider rehabs and try to place these birds in their native habitats? It may be a serious alternative… Ahhhhh… perhaps we should look at this?!

With so many species we consider pets on CITES, perhaps we should consider rehabbing with hopes of returning these birds into the wild. Is that far-fetched? What would such an undertaking require? Who would participate and oversee the movement? If we truly love our companion parrots, we should also aid in their return to wild populations, and we should take measures to ensure their safety for decades to come.

Yes, the future of aviculture is uncertain and in flux—we need to address issues now—while we can prevent more disasters. We need to create a dialogue between all parties in aviculture and find a solution and some of us need to possibly do some adjustments. Take a look at the snippet below… pretty scary.

According to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, the US captive parrot population could swell to 100 million by the year 2020. US breeders now hatch 2-5 million parrots yearly, and an additional 15,000 birds are legally imported. Despite our long-term ban on wild-caught parrots, illegal imports remain a problem.  The US Fish & Wildlife Service estimates that 20,000 parrots illegally enter the USA from Mexico each year, with at least 5,000 smuggled in from elsewhere! “

In closing; where do we start? Can we face the challenges that are already here and the ones approaching? Can we put aside our fuzzy feelings and face the brutal truths? Can we find solutions that are acceptable to all? My friends, we have much to contend with in the upcoming days, months, years, and decades, we have so many variables coming into play that the task may seem daunting, but if we are the stewards of our beloved psitticines, we need to do what is best for them now and in the future. We need to put aside our differences and think about the needs of our feathered loved ones, and we need to do it soon—very soon!


  1. Sad but so true. Breeders continue to look away as the rescues fill to capacity. There is no room for "good breeders" who do not participate in rescue. They have to see what's happening to their baby birds. Frankly, I really think the time has come for breeders to be carefully monitored and allowed to produce only so many baby birds a year. If you have to break eggs, then do that. It's much better than having unwanted, disturbed and often mistreated birds stored like prisoners in rescues coast to coast. And, with a failing economy with no easy fix in sight, it will get worse and worse. People are giving up dogs and cats because they've lost jobs and homes. Very few rentals will allow big, noisy parrots.

    I must confess, I've changed my mind completely about the morality of breeding birds. Even endangered species. They would be better off left in the wild than confined for the rest of their lives in cages. If we aren't going to return them to the wild, its pointless. If their habitats no longer exist, they will unfortunately go the way of other species: adapt or die.

  2. Good points.
    I think we will not be able to stop people from breeding parrots and frankly I am not sure yet if that is the goal. I think aviculture was run for many years by people who had very little knowledge about birds and their real ability as pets (that goes even for the big trainers and book writers).

    I believe we should focus on Life Style, Training and Proper Exercise together with abolishing trimming parrot's wings, these are things we can change fairly easy and most of us can start with them selves and their own birds.

    (love your blog)


  3. John,

    I think right now, the avicultural community needs to take a breather...we need to regroup and figure out what is necessary for all souls in this situation. I really believe we need to concentrate on getting the existing birds into home and then take measures to prevent this disaster from happenint again—no one is winning in this current situation and too many birds are falling through the cracks and losing their lives because of it.

    I'm glad you like my blog!

  4. But this would have to become a political issue of some sort with banning breeding? Or what do you have exactly on mind? I think there is many breeders, maybe most, that established their living around it. Also the un interested public will hear
    1: birds are endangered, there is less and less in the wild
    2: we should have a ban on breeding the same birds in captivity , it might be confusing to many.

    Also, I am not exactly an expert on breeding, my main forte is training, but what would be done with the existing breeding pairs?

    I do see the point tho, only trying to think out loud.


  5. John,

    I honestly don't have a set answer...but given the current situations, something needs to be done. As I mentioned, I think a summit would be an excellent idea, a meeting of the minds where ideas, options, possible solutions, etc., could be discussed in a civil and productive manner.

  6. We have an annual conference in Canada, however it is influenced by breeders a lot. How is it in the States?

  7. John,

    Nothing like I elude to has been discussed in the U.S. I think it would a significant step in the right direction though...