Saturday at the Sanctuary

Published by emilyatspecklefarm on

It has been about a year since the last Saturday we were at the sanctuary. And almost a year since AJ fell off the cliff, that event that set the course of this last year and possibly the rest of our lives in motion.  A work party had been canceled that day, which was why he decided to go hiking and that was how he ended up falling of a cliff, you can read more about that on the About Us page.
  It was satisfying to see all the work that has been done since the last time we were able to attend a work part. There is a small bird building that’s finished and another for the Grey’s that is almost finished, only the flight pen is left undone. The conure (also Quaker, mini-macaw and who knows what in the end) building is the biggest and furthers from finished of the buildings. When finished, it will have flights on three sides, a kitchen and a garage door so they can drive in and load up food and supplies.  Bob has big plans and always has projects underway.
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It might have started out as a macaw sanctuary but now they house cockatoos, conures, cockatiels, amazons, parakeets, rosellas, Indian ring neck parrots, lovebirds and many more species.  It is intended as a place for birds to go that are not suitable for pets or have no other place to go.

Often they are the result of poor breeding, rearing, training, handling, wild capture, abuse or trauma.  Other reasons for birds being there seem a little less rock solid to me.  Some are there because they hurt or killed other birds they were housed with or because they became jealous of a new baby, intimate partner or bird in a way that the owners couldn’t deal with.  Those might be hard situations but the bird could still be a good pet in another home.  Also more confusing for me, many birds are there because their owners think that they are doing “right” by their birds to put them in a sanctuary instead of rehoming even if they are an excellent pet. I feel there are many birds there who should have been sent to a rescue. By filling the sanctuary with birds who could live happily as pets there is less room for the ones who really need to be in the sanctuary.  Birds who, by no making of their own, are euthanized if they don’t find their way into a sanctuary.

My time at the sanctuary always makes me thoughtful. I remember the first time I visited a women saying that as long as she was part of the problem she had to be part of the solution. At the time I didn’t understand what she meant. How was she part of the problem, she was a good parrot owner, wasn’t she just part of the solution? I now see that the issue is much more complicated.  I can’t explain what she meant very well but I have come to understand that I too am part of the problem. As long as there are parrots, or any other creature in captivity for that matter, their will always be birds who end up in sanctuaries. As long as unfortunate events happen to people who mean well and normally do right leaving them unable to care for their animals there is a need for sanctuaries and rescues. As long as out of date animal husbandry practices are followed there will be a need for rescues and sanctuaries. As long as imperfect humans share their life with imperfect animals we will need sanctuaries and rescues.

Does that mean that I think we should turn loose all our domestic and captive animals and stop breeding their kind? No. what I mean is that as long as there are people who love to share their lives with other animals they need to help be part of the solution. We have an obligation to educate others about good breeding, care, feeding and training practices as well as support rescues and sanctuaries. 

By the time we left we were exhausted and I had a headache, my own fault for not bringing a big enough lunch. It’s always hard work but so rewarding to know we are helping the Dawson’s help the birds in their care now and in the future. The sanctuary is only open to the general public once a year; for their annual benefit auction and barbeque. We were not able to attend last year ( AJ had just broke his hip a little over a week prior and was just starting his long bed-rest) but we have it on good authority that the food, people, auction items and atmosphere are great. The only other way to visit this awe inspiring place is to volunteer your skills, labor, time, money, love and energy.  If you still want to help but are unable to come to a work party please consider making a monetary donation. It is costly to run a sanctuary so any amount would be greatly appreciated!

There are work parties almost every weekend sometimes Sunday and Saturday leading up to the barbeque. The rest of the years they are fewer and farther between because many of the volunteers also run rescues and well we all have lives of course! Well, sort of, anyway. This time we put siding on one whole side of the conure building and cut roofing for half of the conure aviary. Getting a side of the conure building finished really gave me a sense of the buildings size and the full potential of the sanctuary.


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I hope you found information and inspiration, come back soon!
Kindest regards,


Anonymous · June 26, 2013 at 2:14 am

What a heart felt read, Amazing what WE can do if we see the bigger picture. Reading this gave great detail on this adventure, that all should be apart of. Sonya Brewer. APR ALL PARROT RESCUE

Emily Swezey · June 26, 2013 at 2:25 am

thanks! I agree we all can and should be a part of the adventure. It takes a village!

Crowe · June 27, 2013 at 11:44 am

what is the protection from predators..they are outside yr round.. i know to you all it a good thing but when i hear and see the videos off the cockatoos i feel sad. that they are locked in and have to be in kennel like cages.. i dont say all this in negativity.. its just that.. if there all housed together then there will be more n more unwanted birds stuck in a cage for ever . producing baby’s after baby’s.. and how do you keep up with yearly exam’s to make sure there are no toxins from galvanized metals .. 🙂

Emily Swezey · June 27, 2013 at 2:52 pm

Hi Crowe, Welcome to my Blog! You made some good points and some questions I had as well. The flights are made out of welded wire or chain link and buried, possible cemented in place but I’m not sure about that. There had been issues with predators in the past, with the help of many concerned volunteers they were able to make all the flights predator proof. I hope you don’t think that “we” meaning The sancuary’s supporters, view this as an all good thing. If you reread my post you will see that I definitely think it’s sad. However, I also thing it’s amazing. Consider the other option for these birds. They would be in a rescue, or Home( some should be happy in homes others would be miserably unhappy) or dead. Only a very few homes a bird here would be in would have flights big enough for them to fly like they can at the sanctuary. Besides that, the birds get to be birds again. Live in their natural flock system. Many of the birds come in with really bad FDB (feather destruction behaviors) that often go completely away or nearly so because they get the social interact they have needed all along. That doesn’t mean all their feathers grow back though, many have done too much damage for them to ever grow back. As for there being babies raised, ABSOLUTELY NOT. It’s a simple thing to break up a nest and if a bird got really desperate take away eggs laid on the ground. I’m not saying its easy, Obviously you would have mad fully flighted parrots to deal with but it can be done and it is what they do.And last but not least, few parrots actually LOVE being pets. Maybe 1 in 10 makes an awesome pet. The rest are much happier just being birds. You might not agree with me on that, but considering how little to no effort has been put towards breeding parrots with good pet qualities. Instead breeders work ridiculously hard to get color mutations. And to your last question. I don’t know how they go about vet care, I assume that the vet comes there. I included a link to their website in my post. The Dawson’s are very busy people but I’m sure that whatever questions you asked they would get back to you about eventually. It’s always better to go to the source when you have questions, I’m just a messenger and I very well could have got some things wrong.I really appreciate your thoughtful and heartfelt opinion. You seemed to take an interest into the cockatoos, if you are interested in adopting there are some great rescues and people who help owners with placement in the area that I can put you in touch with. At the moment there is a large number of cockatoos that are headed to The sanctuary. Some of them should be going to pet homes instead and Bob is trying to make that happen. I’m hoping to write a something about that soon. I thing you would agree that the sanctuary should be a last resort; so help it stay that and network on behalf of the birds 🙂

    Anonymous · June 28, 2013 at 1:14 am

    Hi Emily!! You provided a very thoughtful write-up!! I totally agree with your statement that few parrots like being pets. They do, however, like being a part of a flock. As a result believe most of them love being in a Sanctuary environment where they can live in outdoor flights with birds of their own kind. However, I am not a supporter of sanctuaries that house birds in indoor cages and call themselves a sanctuary. I do know that in some instances this may be the only alternative for the birds in their care and may be better than the alternative for the birds. I have spent a lot of time watching the birds, especially the Quakers and Conures, at Bob Dawson’s sanctuary and I would challenge anyone that says the birds are not happy and would be better off in a home. I think that all bird rescues should always ask the following question when a bird is relinquished to them: What is in the best interest of the bird?, Sending them to a sanctuary (that includes both potential adoptable and non-adoptable birds) or adopting them into a home!! My experience with rescues has shown me that most of them try to place every bird that comes into the rescue because the bird(s) represent money and they (the rescue) has bills such as vet visits, food, toys, etc. to pay. I also think a lot of bird people seem to think sanctuaries are a place of last resort and only meant for those birds that are deemed un-adoptable (so called dangerous birds). It’s been my experience that all birds are dangerous to varying degrees as they are WILD animals!! A lot of the sanctuaries out there, not the Macaw Rescue and Sanctuary, are charging large fees for the placement of a bird(s) in their facility for lifetime care. Even though some have taken in ex breeders I believe the trend will be to take in those birds where the birds’ caretakers don’t want to deal with rescues and they have sufficient money to place their birds with them. One can argue with their approach but it is a business model that they deem necessary for them to support current and future operations. The answer to the bird overpopulation problem, in my opinion, is not more rescues, because a lot of them are terrible. In addition, the number of suitable homes for these birds is dwindling. I strongly believe the real answer is more sanctuaries like Bob Dawson’s place. I really believe most birds will thrive in this type of environment!! I think if all bird rescues and bird owners (caretakers) can get over this notion that we humans can provide a more nurturing environment (home) than the birds can receive from their own kind the sooner we will begin to solve the bird overpopulation problem. They were never meant to be pets and never should have been brought into captivity!! However, we are where we are but we can begin to solve the problem if we move beyond the notion that they make great pets!! I know some will say their birds are great pets and I don’t doubt their sincerity but the real truth is that most parrots don’t make great pets and they live lonely lives in tiny cages where the only attention they get is when their owners change their food and water, etc. or yell at them for screaming.Bob Arnold

    Emily Swezey · June 28, 2013 at 3:58 am

    Thanks for visiting and leaving such a thoughtful and passionate comment! I very much agree with you on most of what you said, I do have a few views that are different then yours. The reason why I still think sanctuaries should be the last resort in spite of what you brought up is because placing a bird into a home instead of a sanctuary lessons demand for baby parrots. Thereby decreasing profits to breeders resulting in a decrease in their monetary incentive to be breeders. I Also strongly believe that if breeders selected for “pet traits”, parrots could be bred into excellent pets, who loved being pets. If you consider what a short period of time captive breeding has been viable we have no idea what we are doing yet. There was one other thing I would like to comment on. You said ” I also think a lot of bird people seem to think sanctuaries are a place of last resort and only meant for those birds that are deemed un-adoptable (so called dangerous birds). It’s been my experience that all birds are dangerous to varying degrees as they are WILD animals!! I agree that all birds, for that matter any animal domestic or not, is dangerous to some degree. However, many birds are put in sanctuaries because of issues that don’t make them dangerous to other birds or people but to themselves. for instance, severe FDB can turn into self mutilation, which can cause death in extreme cases. So, I would argue that there are more factors considered in placing a bird besides how much of a threat they pose to a human or other animal.Again, thank you for the comment and the passion!

Anonymous · June 27, 2013 at 8:13 pm

Crowe, I understand your concern but what is the alternative? Since euthanasia is on the increase of perfectly healthy birds due to rescues/sanctuaries being at full capacity, we in the community must support those who provide an alternative. I agree with your statement about breeding, especially birds that do not thrive in capacity. But since that most likely will not happen, we must remain positive and push through and accomodate needs that need to be met. Cate Clark

    Emily Swezey · June 27, 2013 at 8:16 pm

    well said Cate Clark! There is no perfect answer but we have to work to make better the answers we do have.

Anonymous · June 27, 2013 at 8:16 pm

Whoops I meant to say captivity not capacity. LOL Cate

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