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Ann Brooks, Founder of Phoenix Landing

July 24, 2008

When Ann Brooks founded Phoenix Landing in April 2000, it was the culmination of many years of planning. Her goal was to form an organization that could help long-lived parrots like Phoenix, her 13 year-old greenwing macaw, who she knew would probably out live her and would one day need a new home and continued care for many future decades.

Today, Phoenix Landing operates across multiple states on the East Coast to help hundreds of parrots and the humans that love them. Specifically, the organization provides educational activities regarding the care and needs of parrots, helps parrots who outlive their guardians to find a new home, finds new homes for neglected or unwanted parrots, supports conservation and eco-tourism, sponsors better avian education for vets and vet students, and similar activities.

Ann Brooks took time out of her busy schedule to answer questions about Phoenix Landing and its activities.

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1. Tell us how Phoenix Landing got its start. Is there anything that sets Phoenix Landing apart from other parrot rescues?

Ann and Phoenix My original purpose in forming Phoenix Landing, like so many other well-intentioned people, was to build a sanctuary. In particular, I knew that my Phoenix (greenwing macaw pictured on the right) would one day need a safe place to land because she should outlive me by decades. However, I’ve come to believe that most birds will flourish best when placed with a new family. Yet even adopted birds will likely need several new future homes because they live a long time; but birds are very resilient and it is in their nature to adapt and change. We’ve seen hundreds of birds adjust well and quickly to their new homes.

I think what sets Phoenix Landing apart from most other welfare organizations is that we serve a very extensive area (Washington DC, MD, VA, NC as well as parts of PA, WV, SC and TN). We facilitate adoption throughout these areas as well as a robust educational program. We firmly believe that education is the most important thing we do and the best way to help more birds. In addition, every bird that comes to Phoenix Landing remains under our legal guardianship for life. We require families to let us know if they can no longer care for their adopted bird so we can facilitate another new home. Most birds are long-lived and we want to insure that they remain in good situations throughout their entire lives.

Also, I have to brag. We have extraordinary volunteers doing extraordinary work. They are motivated by the parrots that we help, and the families who care for them. They forge a network of determined individuals throughout several states, and our strength lies in their teamwork, diversity and geographic dispersion. I believe that Phoenix Landing will remain a viable institution as a result. Many organizations cannot say this.

2. A lot of people seem to think animal rescue organization shouldn’t charge adoption fees if their goal is to place as many animals in homes as possible. Can you tell us why adoption fees are necessary for organizations like Phoenix Landing?

Welfare organizations have costs just like any other business. In order to provide services, we must have revenue to cover the expenses. Most of the birds that come to us go immediately to the vet, sometimes the medical costs for a bird will far exceed any reasonable adoption fee. We also host an educational program which people are encouraged to support but no fees are required. We want people to learn. In addition, if we did not have adoption fees, we could not bear the cost of our foster program (350 birds in foster right now and on average) – the vet and cage expenses for these birds alone are costing us tens of thousands.

In addition, we are an all volunteer organization. We do our work for the joy of seeing birds acquire the care and respect they so deserve. Our efforts are not for the purpose of helping people to acquire free birds. Some people think they are “rescuing” a bird and we should just give it to them. We disagree. No one is paid for the countless hours of work we do, but those who benefit should help support the organization’s programs and its expenses. Most of the birds that come to Phoenix Landing are not “rescues.” These are birds from families who could not, for one reason or another, continue to care for their parrot, and they turn to us for professional help. Someday, this could be your bird and you would want us to spend the time looking for an excellent new home, not out on the streets clamoring for money to make ends meet.

We want to use our volunteer time for the bird, not for fundraising. Adoption fees are one solution for this.

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This photo of a Senegal eating his veggies is from
the Phoenix Landing parrot calendar, one of several items
available for purchase at the Phoenix Landing online store.

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Lastly, our goal is to place as many birds in good homes as possible. A good home is one that can financially commit to the parrot’s health from all perspectives: providing adequate vet care, a healthy diet with fresh foods, and an environment that stimulates them mentally and physically. Cages, toys, food, vet visits: all of this costs money. The fees that we charge to adopt a parrot do not begin to fully cover the costs of our programs, and are nothing compared to the cost of the parrot over her lifetime.

3. You charge different amounts for different types of parrots. How do you determine how much the adoption fee should be for particular species?

We have a range so that we can find an overall balance in our revenues vs expenditures. We ask for a donation for the smallest birds, because frankly, we don’t want people going to the store to buy a “cheap” one. A larger bird has a higher fee to help us make up for all of the other costs. We believe that birds are expensive to care for properly, and the adoption fee is minimal by comparison. Chances are, if someone can’t afford the fee, they probably can’t afford to care for the bird properly either (vet, toys, food, cage, play areas, etc).

4. In your opinion, what makes a “perfect” parrot owner?

Some the attributes we most value in our applicants are:

  • Willingness to learn, since none of us will ever achieve perfection and there is so much to know;
  • Commitment to provide a mentally and physically enriched life for a parrot;
  • Respect for a parrot’s nature without expectations in return;
  • Patience! Learning to live successfully with a parrot can be very challenging, and requires dedication. Problems are not solved over night.

5. What are some reasons Phoenix Landing might turn down an adoption application?

We have never turned anyone away. However, we do sometimes ask that they learn more about behavior or nutrition, or invest in a larger cage first — examples of things that might be important for the parrot’s welfare or successful companionship.

6. What’s the hardest part of running a parrot rescue?

The hardest part is finding a way to get ahead of the number of parrot’s that need help. We always have a long wait list. The number of birds far outweighs the number of people interested in making a genuine commitment to care for them. Supply far outweighs demand, and yet the number of young birds sold on the market does not seem to slow down. Our job is to help people understand that a re-homed bird can be a great companion, the same if not more so than a young bird.

7. Do you have a favorite parrot adoption story?

Well, that would be Fred, one of my adopted blue and golds. She was a pet store’s pet for 18-plus years. Her cage was small, her food was lacking in quality, she had one swing and nothing else to do. So her primary focus was preening; her chest was featherless as was most of her back. Her feet were atrophied. She was bored crazy and in ill health.

Now, she is a most companionable bird, we have an extraordinary relationship. She insists to forage, will often hang by one toe and squeal with the delight of life, eats a huge variety of foods with relish, has grown all of her feathers back, and chuckles at her own mumbled jokes. If anyone thinks a bird is not resilient and capable of learning a new way of life, they have only to meet Fred to know this is not true. Parrots are remarkable in their ability to survive, and it’s our job as people to give them this chance with dignity and respect and quality-of-life.

Fred is Ann’s gorgeous Blue & Gold Macaw. After being
rescued from pet-shop neglect, she’s now a healthy and happy bird.

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A big thank you to Ann for her time to conduct this interview and of course to all of the volunteers who help run Phoenix Landing’s many excellent programs

Also, Phoenix Landing wants to help people understand that birds are resilient, adaptable, complex and capable of adjusting well to change: a re-homed bird is a great choice for anyone looking for a new feathered pet. As Ann says: Birds in good homes need to sustain their quality of life; birds in neglect and misery need to find a better place.

Please check out Phoenix Landing’s adoptable parrots list for just a few of the birds ready for new homes. There are actually many more great parrots in Phoenix Landing’s foster care that are looking for permanent homes, some of which you can meet if you come to one of the Phoenix Landing workshops.

Pictured above is one of many sweet and
adoptable parrots at Phoenix Landing
.
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14 comments

  1. Hi Ann…

    I love this site. You run the best bird rescue around. I love the site and the newsletters from PL.

    Win


  2. A rehomed parrot is a true delight and seems to appreciate a new home. Thanks for the great article and your dedication to parrots.

    Thsnks,
    Julis


  3. Great article, good questions, insightful answers, and right on target.

    Thanks
    John


  4. Passion is the joy of life!

    The parrots of Phoenix Landing thank you, Ann!


  5. I’m a Phoenix Landing Foster Mom, volunteer and adopting 2. There’s nothing better than watching a bird who’s scared, possibly neglected and unsure of himself flourish and grow into a happy, fun loving, social creature who’s ready to take on the world.

    Without Phoenix Landing, the education program they offer and all the volunteers, these birds would probably never have a chance to do that.

    Thanks Ann for following your dream!


  6. Great article Ann.
    I have also adopted one of PL’s parrots. I drove 4 hours to pick up SOphie a beautiful SUlphur crested cockatoo. After we had her for awhile and had gotten her off plain bird seed, we had her DNA sexed and SOphie is not a female but a male. The previous owners didn’t even know enough to take her to the vet for the 7-8 years they owned her. We thought about changing the name to “Spirit” but the other 4 in our flock already call him by name. We have also recused another bird, a Yellow Nape Amazon that both owners were dying of lung cancer. We have put together an Endangered Species parrots seminar to help educate people on Tropical parrots, the parrots are the stars of the show.www.BillWarren3.com
    Sophie, or Spirit has never bitten me and is our only male in the group. We have developed a very special bond. What a great way to spend your life helping parrots and always learning from them. I highly recommend Phoenix Landing to anybody thinking about getting a parrot. Do NOT buy one from a Pet store, you won’t learn how to take care of these precious gifts. The learning seminars are incredible and you walk away having learned so much that you wonder why didn’t I know all of this before?
    Bill & Marie, Rainbow Bolivian Scarlet Macaw, Merlin Blue & Gold Macaw,Kasuku Congo African Grey, Sophie Sulphur Crested Cockatoo and Charlie Yellow Nape Amazon and Ramsey our Hurricane Katrina rescue basset puppy.


  7. Excellent post, spread the word! Excellent Q&A with Phoenix Landing I still see too many birds in a local pet store where I get my supplies up for adoption. The adoption area is at least 2000 sq feet of every exotic species, with feather plucking issues, its just sad.


  8. What a fantastic interview! I am a northern virginia Phoenix Landing member preparing for another rescued B&G Macaw. Ive been to the PL Seminars featuring Sally Blanchard, Steve Martin and many workshops where I go home full of new information and techniques, all to the benefit of my B&G, Gracie. Gracie loves it when I visit a Phoenix Landing event because she knows I come home with a new toy for her. And, as soon as I finish the paperwork, Gracie will be signed off to Phoenix Landing, should anything happen to me. Its nice to know she will get the best care with Phoenix Landing fosters and knowledgeable new owners.
    Cheers,
    Susan \o/ & Gracie ( ; >
    Painted Macaw Feather Earrings
    http://www.picturetrail.com/funtopaint

    “If you have most of the buttons on your shirt, your parrots need to get out more.”


  9. I have attended several Phoenix Landing Educational Classes and I can not express in words the gratitude for sharing theri knowledge with us so that we all can live happy and enriched lives. I can attest to the emmaculate adaptability of re-homed birds. We have a Congo African Grey that was re-homed at age 7 (according to his band). He never had fresh fruits or veggies. He is one of my best eaters. They just need the opportunity for a healthy life and Patience. Living with Birds has definately tought me patience. Thanks Ann and Phoenix Landing for all that you do.


  10. Wonderful article, Ann.
    I was only able to attend 2 educational classes, but any member of the organization is available for questions regarding the care of your birds. I have 3 cockatoos that were part of a large rescue in NC and they are a continued work in progress. I have learned so much that I share what I have learned with other new and seasoned parrot people and I credit all this to Phoenix Landing and their dedication to parrots and the people who care for them.
    Kudos!
    From: Hakuryu, Sniz and Fondue


  11. I was just reading over some old email and ran across this link. I am a PL member and also a foster mom to 2 PL birds, Sam (yellow naped amazon) and Socrates (red head mexican amazon). I attend every meeting/class that I can that PL puts on in MD & VA and find it wonderful to meet so many birds. Its a shame that the birds need new homes but its great that its parrot people that have come to learn that get to look over and consider each new bird that comes in.


  12. I am interested in adopting a male eclectus. I live in the Flectcer, NC area and am looking forward to your new center opening. I have attempted to download the application form but have been unable to do so. I am on your mailing list. Is there a phone number that I may call a local member? Thank you


  13. How can you be so adamanty against breeders, yet turn a blind eye to one that is breeding birds simply for profit and not for the reintroduction back into the wild?

    Yet this is happening in Jacksonville, NC …….



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