Trav’s Travels: Foster Parrots

hey there TRAVelers I’m so excited
because today I’m visiting foster parrots a parrot sanctuary we’re gonna
learn what it takes to care for birds how they got here and if we’re lucky we
might even hear them stay tuned So TRAVelers I’m Here with Danika the sanctuary director here at Foster Parrots. First and foremost thank you for having us
here this place is amazing you do incredible work. okay can you tell me when did Foster Parrots start. So Foster Parrots really started
in 1988 by a man named Mark Johnson It really started when he was a Potter in
Cambridge Massachusetts and he started rescuing parrots sort of in his own time
and then it very quickly snow balled and he had to move out of its pottery studio
he bought a big barn out in Rockland Massachusetts and really started Foster
Parrots and then in 1999 we were incorporated as a welfare and rescue
organization and then in 2007 when we out grew that space we move down here
to Rhode Island and we’ve been here ever since Danika, this place is huge how many different birds do you have here. Well so we have a total of 380 birds that live here and about 50 different species of birds. When we bring people into the sanctuary it becomes pretty apparent why parrots are kind of tough to live
with. It’s incredibly loud. Right now they’re actually being kind of quiet but pretty soon you will start to hear the occasional scream which is very natural So here is one of our first aviaries this is a conure and a mixed species aviary. Smaller species they flock together, there are a lot of bonded pairs. We have about 8 parrots in here and they need a lot of space to fly. This is sort of a tough aviary, conures are edgy birds. They have a lot of personality in a little body. You’ll often see conures for sale in a pet store and unfortunately it’s a very hard animal to own and when you go to a pet store it looks really cute and sweet and easy and it’s in this fun little box but when you actually bring them home it’s loud they bite they might not like you. so we get a lot of conures here which is surprising for how small they are. One of the big things we do here at the sanctuary is try to find parrots a companion. Parrots in the wild mate for life. They’re wired to have constant companionship. whether that is with a family unit in a big flock or with an individual bird. In captivity, though, parrots often live alone and that’s really not fair to the parrot. That’s like me telling you that you have to live alone for your entire life you never get to have any friends, you never get to have a partner, you never get to have a home. What we do here is try and give the parrots back the life that they would have in the wild which includes companionship, emotional support, psychological support, space to fly, space to roam and space to make their own life. so we saw that this bird right here was
kind of lifting up it’s feathers on it’s head. Do we know why they are doing that? Parrots can control their feathers so sometimes you will see a parrot that is really fluffed up or you’ll see a parrot that has their mohawk go up That’s a sign that they are excited or engaged It can also be that they’re afraid, happy or angry. It is a way that they communicate. I can’t say for sure what this bird is trying to tell me but it’s feathers are a way for it to communicate with other birds and hopefully with us. Parrots are really engaged animals they pay attention to their surroundings they are watching us as much as we are watching them. And they will try and get a reaction out of you. they’ll try and sneak up on you and scare you just to get that “Whoo” that jump because they have a sense of self and they understand that you’re this other thing and they want to interact with you. They have personalities, they have a sense of humor, they have likes and dislikes. Every parrot reacts differently to each person so I might walk into a room and this parrot might love you and hate me, why? I don’t know. Probably loves my hat and my fashion sense These birds are so beautiful Unfortunately because they are so pretty people want to bring them into their home. And it’s like yes these animals are so beautiful and so cool and so different and special but that doesn’t mean we should bring them into our home You would want them to experience life the way it’s supposed to be To cage such a beautiful bird, It’s such a shame that it can’t fly around and spread those beautiful wings. Exactly, imagine if you were born with wings and you were never allowed to use them. Danika is so knowledgeable about parrots
I wonder how one becomes a parrot expert so when did you get involved with Foster Parrots so I’ve been here a little over a year and a half I originally worked at a wolf
sanctuary out in Colorado and after working there I realized I wanted to go
and work with animals as a lifetime career so I went and I got my masters
in animals and public policy at Tufts veterinary school and upon
graduation I found this place I saw Parrot Confidential a documentary on
Foster Parrots I applied we hit it off and I’ve been here ever since One of our goals is for every bird to have their outdoor aviary and an indoor aviary so they can pick where they want
to go what they want to do and then again it’s a really important thing for birds to have which is a sense of self and to be able to make choices parrots in captivity and in the home they don’t have any choice. They’re stuck in a cage and they are stuck to this schedule here we let them choose and that’s really kind of what sanctuary is about let them be independent and free. This is Bert. Bert is a Hyacinth macaw. and his buddy over here is Jub Jub Jub Jub is a blue-throated macaw both of these species are endangered Jub
Jub in the back here is critically endangered there’s about 150-200 left in the wild You mentioned there is about 50 different species in here. About how many birds do you have here, how many different birds about 380 It’s a lot of mouth’s to feed You’ll notice that we have a lot of people walking around behind us Some of them have carts of food on it We have about 45 volunteers that help us take care of these animals That means fresh water, fresh salad, fresh pellets and fresh nuts every single day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year Plus scraping, sweeping and mopping every single floor every single day it’s a lot of work and it’s really hard but the birds need it all right so here we have the macaw play pen This area was originally for birds that were really human bonded and they really didn’t have bird friends We tried pairing them with birds and they never really seemed to get along with other birds so what we ended up doing was having little individual play pens for each bird so recently we decided to connect all of it
and see if they would maybe on their own start forming new relationships
it’s actually really amazing because we do have birds starting to pair up that for years
showed no interest in other birds and this is really exciting because this
is what it is what it’s all about it’s getting birds to kind of go back to being a bird as much as possible and some of the birds never will. So a lot of these birds came to us because they were in someone’s home at one point but because they are so loud, they destroy everything in your home they bite they might not like they’re
owner they didn’t make very good pets so somebody realized that I can’t keep this animal in my house It’s destroying my walls, it’s destroying my furniture, it bites me it doesn’t like my spouse whatever it may be They end up having to find a place to put them there is not a lot of parrot rescues out there, we are one of the few in the country that does lifetime sanctuary rescue so we really have taken in a lot of birds that nobody really wanted to keep in their home This seems like a parrot jungle gym. That’s the whole goal, that’s exactly how it should be Can you tell me a little bit about a parrot’s
diet what’s on the menu for today? For today’s menu, which is the menu for every day here They get fresh water, because everybody needs fresh water but then they get a salad which is made up of apples, kale, celery, beets, squash, sweet potato, peas, corn, pasta really any vegetable, yeah they eat better than I do and then they get a parrot specific pellet mixed with nuts so almonds, walnuts, pistachios and they get this every day parents need a really varied diet in the
wild they eat a whole bunch of stuff they actually eat so many different
things you don’t know exactly what some parrots eat in the wild, we can kind of guess from what we see But these guys will really eat a lot of stuff So our job is to really try and give them as many different options as possible. The typical day here for a
parrot really starts around 8 a.m. when we come in and the volunteers come in
and that’s when we start to feed and get them water and then we spend
the rest of the day cleaning. so the first half of the morning is just feed all the birds and the second half of the day is all about cleaning and these guys are pretty messy. Danika, I see some of these birds maybe pluck their feathers, are having a bad hair day. Can you tell me a little bit about what’s going on with them? So what you are seeing is feather plucking which is unfortunately a reaction to either psychological stress or boredom or loneliness, whatever it may be a lot of parrots that are in captivity will pluck out their feathers and unfortunately it is really hard to stop once they start and sometimes they’ll do it for so long that the feathers won’t come back This is something that is, unfortunately, a stress response you do see in captivity with parrots. These are wild animals These are animals that are meant to live free in the jungle or wherever it may be in the forest And when we bring them into our home and take them out of the wild they’re not equipped to live a life of captivity and this is often times what you see but aside from losing a couple of feathers, these guys are pretty happy They have a good life here and we try to do everything we can to accommodate them emotionally and psychologically as best we can. Hopefully they’ll stop but sometimes that’s just going to be the way they look forever. We still love them. I am going to take you down to North Park which is the original part of Foster Parrots when we first moved here So this is one of the oldest sections of the sanctuary This is also probably the loudest part of the sanctuary. It’s really quiet in here so one of the things a lot of people think about when they think of parrots is mimicking they say hello to you they say your name
what does that look like how long does it take them to learn a different word Honestly they can learn They can learn after hearing it once. Some birds you have to repeat it a lot but sometimes we can say things once and they can totally pick it up. Their range of voice is very broad they
can mimic words and they can mimic sounds. Have you experienced that here? We have some birds that can make typewriter noises or laser beam sounds the sound of a door closing or the sound of a fire alarm. That has to be nice and quiet I am sure And they will totally make up their own noises That’s Tucker. Trav: Hi Tucker! When we first put up this aviary, Tucker managed to chew a hole through the wire. Those beak are incredibly powerful so it took us a while to figure out what actually is the strongest material to keep a cockatoo in. But we realized after he cut that hole in the wire we realized he liked sticking his head out so we put up a new wire and cut him a little window again. Don’t worry, he’s not stuck So it seems like we have another jungle gym over here, do these birds partner together? Unfortunately, no so these birds we tried to put in an aviary with these birds but they are a bit more timid a little more laid back, they are really human bonded so we just found that being in the aviary with all the other cockatoos was just too much for them and they were really stressed out So we tried to give them this other environment. so they could have a little of their own space and it’s a little bit calmer They are so smart and they are so emotional and captivity is so devastating for them. I don’t want to say more than other species but it’s really hard on them. Wow Foster Parrot’s is incredible the
amount of work they put in to give these birds a great life is amazing from the
food they prepare to the jungle gyms they scrub it is clear just how much
attention a bird really needs I am so thankful for the chance to see what a
day in the life looks like here at a parrot sanctuary Just from what you told me about the volunteers I could tell how much it takes to care for birds
which really makes me think it’s not a good pet we really should not be
taking them into our home can you tell me why they don’t make
really good pets absolutely one of the tough things about parrots is that
they’re wild animals and in the wild you have certain skills and abilities that
make your chances of surviving a lot better so for parrots they can fly they
can’t do that in the home that’s really hard for them they are really loud
because they need to be able to communicate to their friends and family
miles away so they’ve got this loud screams not really good in your home
they’ve got a big powerful beak to crack open nuts and to crawl and chew into
tree trunks not really good in the home when they’re destroying your countertop
and your tables and then the fact that they live so long they have human life
expectancies you know over 80 years for some species so all these things that
make them wonderful animals in the wild make the really hard pets in the home
because we as people we’re not a parrot I can’t give a parot what a parrot
really needs yeah and what happens when you know people don’t expect how long
they’re gonna live people can’t expect to care for them they end up here
absolutely a lot of people when they bring the parrot into their home you
know they love the animal and they really care for that animal but they
just don’t know the reality and often times that they find out too late and
that’s when they get a hold of us and after we step in to try and help the
person find the right option to help them with their parents or we have to
step in front of parrot and take them in and rescue them. It’s clear how much you
guys love these birds working 24 hours a day 7 days a week
365 days a year there are ways to love these birds without having them as pets
Danika, What are some of those ways that our viewers can help out at home to help
the sanctuary there are many ways that you can help out. One of the first things
is to volunteer they’re rescues all over the country working with parrots
work with cats and dogs whatever it is all these organizations they need
everyone’s help and they don’t have the money to be able to pay everybody so
volunteers it’s so so so important so if you have a parrot rescue near your house
go volunteer help them out donate vegetables and fruits donate money I
mean these are places that you know they’re really struggling to
survive and all they want to do is help these birds and you as a volunteer or a
donor it makes all the difference in the world. I really appreciate you giving us
the opportunity to come see what you do and celebrate the work you do Well it’s been awesome having you guys here. I always love to show off this place because it’s an amazing place and these are amazing animals.

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