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About Bird Rescue, Placement & Sanctuary Organizations

Photo Copyright  Krista Menzel - All Rights Reserved

Flocking with Friends at Foster Parrots, Ltd.

A growing number of bird rescue, placement, and sanctuary organizations are facing the challenge of caring for displaced parrots. Many traditional shelter and animal control organizations are also gaining the knowledge and skills to provide suitable care and placement for the rising numbers of unwanted or abused exotic birds entering their facilities. All of these organizations can use volunteers and donations to help birds in their care. 


But whether you are looking to donate or volunteer, to plan your estate, to place your bird, or to start your own nonprofit bird rescue organization, it is important to first distinguish between legitimate organizations and substandard operations that are simply exploiting the situation for their personal benefit at the public’s-and the birds’- expense. 



Unfortunately, some groups claim to be rescue or sanctuary facilities but in reality are animal collectors or hobby breeders that simply formed a nonprofit organization and promote themselves as a refuge for birds. Others even breed the birds they rescue to fund their rescue operation or place them in breeding situations. 


Many unwanted birds also fall victim to “hoarders” who warehouse them in grossly substandard conditions while others acquire them to use for entertainment in roadside zoos or menageries or to peddle at bird marts, auctions, or over the internet.      

The birds certainly deserve better!

Don’t be fooled by “pseudo sanctuaries” that prey on people’s desire to help abused, abandoned, or neglected birds when, in fact, they further contribute to the suffering of birds. 

Before donating, do your research to ensure that your support is going to a genuine avian shelter, placement, or sanctuary organization.


Defining Sanctuary

Photo Copyright  Krista Menzel - All Rights Reserved

Taking Flight! African Grey Parrots at Central VA Parrot Sanctuary See the YouTube here.

An animal sanctuary is defined as “a facility that rescues and provides shelter and care for animals that have been abused, injured, abandoned or are otherwise in need.”


According to the The Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries, among the principles that true animal sanctuaries abide by are:


• No breeding or commercial trade

• No invasive or intrusive research

• No unescorted public visitation or contact in wild animal sanctuaries

• No removal of wild animals for exhibition, education, or research


What to look for in an Avian Shelter Facility:
6 Essential Qualities

Avian rescue and shelter organizations in the U.S. and abroad range from small, home based rescue groups that provide temporary care and placement for birds in need to large sanctuaries that provide lifetime care for hundreds of birds.  To fairly evaluate each organization’s merits, many factors related to animal care, ethics, organizational management, education and advocacy must be considered.  Regardless of their differences in size, location, or available resources, certain qualities are universal among ethical avian rescue organizations.  Here are a few things to look for:


Superior Avian Care A safe, healthy and clean environment where birds are provided with ample space, a nutritious diet, and appropriate medical care, a variety of enrichment activities so they can enjoy their full range of natural behaviors, as well as plentiful out-of-cage time, opportunities to socialize with other birds and to exercise and free fly in a safe, supervised area.  Each bird’s individual physical and behavioral needs are always put before the desires and expectations of their humane caretakers


Professional ManagementIt takes more than good intentions to run a professional and sustainable nonprofit avian rescue, placement, or sanctuary organization.  Taking in large numbers of birds-especially long-lived species like macaws and cockatoos-without sufficient resources can easily overwhelm an avian care facility’s ability to provide proper care, and conditions can quickly deteriorate. 


Look for organizations with sound infrastructure, solid management, and a funding plan that will enable them to succeed long-term. They should comply with all federal, state, and legal requirements governing nonprofit organizations, have an active, independent board of directors without conflicts of interest, and offer transparency relating to their mission, animal care, and funding practices.   


For more information, click here for the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries Standards of Excellence


Advocacy and Collaboration - What best defines bona fide rescue and sanctuary organizations as opposed to a “pseudo sanctuaries” or collectors is their willingness and ability to take a stand against practices that contribute to the suffering and exploitation of birds and other animals and to influence social and legislative policy aimed at improving the lives of birds in captivity and protecting birds in the wild. They’re eager to collaborate and share expertise and resources to help ensure that birds everywhere are afforded quality care and humane treatment.  


Education – Another hallmark of reputable organizations is their ability to provide effective educational resources to the public, bird caregivers, and colleagues.  Programs should be focused on the facts, promote a better understanding of the true needs of birds, and offer solutions to the complex issues involved in addressing the welfare of birds. Most importantly, they should send a clear message that all birds belong in their rightful place in the wild.
Public Outreach – Parrots are curious, intelligent, and fascinating creatures.  Their highly emotional nature and repertoire of behaviors are often entertaining to humans.  But as amusing as their antics may be, reputable groups refrain from exploiting them for profit or self-aggrandizement.


Be wary of groups that use birds to perform tricks or hire out birds for entertainment, commercial purposes, or purely for exhibition. These practices are typical of commercial entities that profit from animals and contradict the ethical standards of non-profit animal rescue and sanctuary organizations incorporated to provide refuge and protect animals in their care.
Integrity - Reputable groups do not promote the commercial trade in birds, nor do they breed them or place them in breeding situations. Their sole purpose is to help birds in need.


These are just a few examples of what reputable avian rescue and sanctuary groups do! To learn more, read these articles:



The AWC works to improve the standards of care for captive birds in avian sanctuaries and animal shelters.  Some of the initiatives AWC and its member organizations have contributed to:

  • Avian Sanctuary Standards – Peer reviewed standards of care for exotic birds for the Association of Animal Sanctuaries Manual of Accreditation and for The Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries Best Practice Standards of Care and Operations for Sanctuaries.

  • Avian Shelter Outreach – We offer several important resources to help shelters and animal care facilities provide for the specialized care and placement needs of captive exotic birds in a shelter environment, including Captive Exotic Bird Care: A Guide for Shelters, written and published by the AWC and co-sponsored by the ASPCA and Born Free USA. Visit our Shelter Resource Center.

  • The Basics of Caring for Exotic Birds in the Shelter – A workshop developed by AWC and conducted nationally at humane conferences and shelters. 

  • • USDA Regulations – Provided extensive recommendations for proposed regulations to protect birds not bred for research under the Animal Welfare Act.

    AWC board members worked with nationally and internationally recognized leaders in the animal protection field to help found The Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries, an accrediting organization formed to help strengthen and support the work of legitimate animal sanctuaries worldwide. 


Avian Sheltering and Placement

The Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries
Standards of Excellence for Animal Sanctuaries

The Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries
Starting a Sanctuary

AWC’s Shelter Outreach Program
Assisting Shelter and Animal Control Organizations in Serving the Needs of Captive Exotic Birds

Placing Your Bird with an Avian Rescue Organization
By Becky Sumber & Denise Kelly, The Avian Welfare Coalition



The following websites offer a variety of tools and resources for animal welfare professionals, caregivers and advocates.


About Animal Hoarding
By the Hoarding of Animals Research


Animal Sheltering Resources
By the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS)


By the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA)


The Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries


To research a nonprofit organization’s latest International Revenue Service Tax Return, visit Guidestar: The National Database of Non-profit Organizations at


Learn more about how you can volunteer or donate your time to parrot welfare or start your own captive bird rescue, placement, or sanctuary organization. Click here.