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