Bird Talk — Abandonment: When Bad Things Happen to Good Birds

By Leslie Crane Rugg   |   May 17, 2022

Relinquishing an exotic pet bird is rarely ideal, but an owner admitting they have run out of options to handle the full-time needs of a mature parrot is honest and very real. Most people are unprepared for the possessive commitment a parrot exhibits toward its owner or other beloved family member. When that commitment can’t be reciprocated, anything can happen – from a bird’s frustrated self-mutilation and angry bitings, to human neglect and just giving up. Often that concession leads to abandonment.

Meet Hoagie: Once a cherished pet, this female yellow-naped amazon was inherited but not welcomed by the deceased bird owner’s daughter. She did her duty to Hoagie, but little love was expressed between the twosome. The daughter didn’t treat or feed Hoagie as the mother had, and Hoagie, being a bird, responded by biting. Hoagie was frequently boarded at Menagerie, sharing Santa Barbara Bird Sanctuary’s facility. The last time, just a few months ago, her owner didn’t return to pick her up. Hoagie had been abandoned. Some time later, a relinquishment application and a very small check arrived in the mail, immediately used to get a veterinary checkup done. As we have come to know Hoagie, she shows little desire to bite the hands that pet or feed her. She is hungry for communication and social interaction – both with people and other parrots. She speaks quietly, coos at times, and her favorite word is “meow.”


Meet Cecil and Cosmo: Their experience with humans is much more the typical homing/rehoming pattern, recycling the best bird every two to four years. Cecil, a yellow-collared macaw, and Cosmo, a Congo African grey, eventually lived in the same household. Their owners presented themselves as bird lovers, becoming regular Sanctuary volunteers. They knew the Sanctuary only continued to exist through grants and donations. They also knew Menagerie’s boarding policies. When they elected to take a very long vacation, Cecil and Cosmo came to us. Finally returning, the couple refused to pay their substantial bill. They left without the birds, never agreed to a payment plan or settlement, and never visited Cecil and Cosmo. Cecil, already a habitual feather-picker, became our poster child for showing what stress can do to a parrot. Cosmo continues to reach out, wanting human interaction, and he gets it, rewarded with a favorite almond for his sweet effort. Abandoned without formal relinquishment, these two birds will always have a home at the Sanctuary.

Meet Doodle: This Moluccan cockatoo’s abandonment starts her story. She was left in a box at the Santa Barbara Zoo entrance. Her condition was heartbreaking. She came to us still picking at herself, almost featherless, with a self-made hole in her chest an inch wide and a half-inch deep. With no information provided other than her name written on the box, we never learned who she belonged to and how she came to be an inveterate mutilator. Even giving her renewed quality of life didn’t stop the constant plucking. We had to find a material her beak couldn’t penetrate. That proved to be bullet-proof Kevlar! Ever since, she has worn vests or collars that prevent her from further harm. Doodle demands attention, knowing she is special.

Visit these four rare and wonderful parrots at the Santa Barbara Bird Sanctuary any day except Tuesday. Located at 2430 Lillie Avenue in Summerland, walk in or contact us for a docent tour – (805) 969-1944,


You might also be interested in...