Foster Parrots Exotic Wildlife Sanctuary Hosts Open House

The nonprofit rescues abandoned and unwanted parrots and spreads awareness about the plight of keeping wild exotic birds in captivity.

When people think of animal rescues, they most commonly think of dogs and cats. But in Hope Valley, Rhode Island, there is a sanctuary that is saving unwanted and abandoned exotic birds. Foster Parrots is hosting an Open House for National Bird Day (a national campaign organized by Born Free USA and the Avian Welfare Coalition) on Sunday, January 10 from 1 to 4 p.m., so you can see for yourself the crisis that they’re dealing with.

“The avian issue is unfortunately not as well known as the cat and dog issue, and it is our way to get together and push the issue publicly,” says Foster Parrots sanctuary director Danika Oriol-Morway. “The overall theme is going to be the plight of parrots in the home and trying to protect them in the wild and raise awareness for these animals.”

Foster Parrots is the largest avian rescue organization in the northeast, and the nonprofit is dedicated to the rescue and protection of unwanted and abused companion parrots and other displaced captive exotic animals. Its mission includes four parts: sanctuary, education, conservation and adoption. It is not natural for a parrot to be kept in captivity in a home, and the organization focuses on the needs of these wild animals. “The sanctuary is a platform for our educational movement, a humane educational movement to get people to understand their relationship with animals and the environment around them,” says Oriol-Morway. “And to get people to really connect to animals in a way that fosters a sense of respect to not put animals in situations we do, such as the massive number of unwanted, abandoned parrots.”

Many parrots arrive at the sanctuary after outliving their owners (some parrots, including the Macaw, live eighty-plus years), and others have been rescued from terrible situations. “They are meant to be wild. We’re here to show people that these birds are emotional, intelligent, flocking species that live in families. They raise their young for years. They have deeply bonded relationships with each other,” Oriol-Morway says. “As humans, we can’t really offer what they need. At the same time, we’re trying to express to people that there are a large number of parrots that are already in homes, and we need to help them live peacefully and take care of them to the best of their ability.”

The mission focuses on spreading awareness about the birds’ needs, which include space to fly and often the companionship of other birds. “That’s emotional enrichment, psychological enrichment, behavioral enrichment,” she says. “It’s basically like bringing a toddler into your home. This is a living, thinking being. A lot of times you’ll see a bird in a cage and it’s got a little mirror and one toy, and people are misinformed that this is an okay life for the animal.”

On the day of the open house, guests will participate in a guided tour of the different areas of the sanctuary where birds live in an open environment, in most cases with other birds, and with access to plenty of toys and a good diet. They will learn about individual birds’ needs, ideal living arrangements and more. If, after learning about the birds’ lifestyles, visitors still want to adopt, they can get more information about adoption at the sanctuary.

But Foster Parrots won’t match you with a bird, the birds choose you. “The bird will make call,” says Oriol-Morway. “We never split up a pair of bonded birds. They have to stay together, and just because you want a bird, doesn’t mean we will give you a bird.”

So how do you know if you are the right one for the bird? “You kind of know if a bird starts to show interest in you,” she says. "Knowing if a bird likes you is complicated, but if you pay attention to the signals, birds will let you know what they want.”

Open House, Jan. 10, 1-4 p.m. Foster Parrots New England Exotic Wildlife Sanctuary, 87 Woodville Alton Rd., Hope Valley,