Stop breeding birds

Stop breeding birds, say Foster Parrots’ Marc Johnson

By Carla Thornton from Parrot Chronicles

MARC JOHNSON thinks breeding parrots is wrong and hopes breeders eventually go the way of the dodo.

“Breeders’ attempts to justify the reasons for why they are here usually falls under the conservation claim, which for the most part is bogus,” says Johnson, founder and director of the nonprofit parrot rescue organisation Foster Parrots Ltd.

Residents of Foster Parrots, Ltd., enjoy open space in Marc Johnson’s renovated barn.

“Yes, they may preserve a species in captivity, but what is that really worth? It’s worth money in their pockets, because the rarer the species the more expensive the bird.”

Johnson comes by his hard-line opinions honestly. For the last 10 years he has devoted his life to finding new homes for the unwanted byproduct of breeders’ livelihoods–a ragtag parade of some 350 macaws, cockatoos, Amazons, conures, cockatiels and other species abandoned by their owners.

This summer, Johnson and a handful of other parrot lovers formed the Avian Welfare Coalition to lobby for legislation protecting captive birds.

Unlike similar welfare organisations, the coalition opposes captive breeding and favours adoption of homeless birds, of which there are thousands in this country alone.

“I’m not against people keeping parrots,” Johnson stresses. “I’m looking for homes all the time. But the rate we are adopting birds out is much slower than the rate we’re taking them in.”

Johnson estimates he has placed about half of the 80 birds he’s received so far this year.

Breeding has “pretty much saturated the market of available homes.”

The full article can be read here Stop breeding birds, say Foster Parrots’ Marc Johnson


The idea of owning a beautiful, intelligent parrot may initially seem attractive, but the reality often does not live up to the expectation.  That is something to seriously consider before buying a parrot as a pet. But there is another factor that should be considered as well: the illegal trade in parrots and its effect on native parrot populations.

While parrots make up only 3.5% of bird species, they account for 30% of birds listed as endangered species.The main reasons are the world trade in parrots and loss of habitat.

In Mexico alone, 6 of 22 species of parrot are listed as endangered, another 10 are classified as threatened, and 4 others are under special protection. 65,000 to 78,500 parrots are illegally captured each year for sale. Of these, more than 75% die before they reach dealers. That translates to 50-60,000 dead parrots every year in just Mexico.

Grey-cheeked parakeets from Peru were very popular as pets in the US in the 1980s. More than 60,000 of them were captured in Peru for sale,  again with a very high mortality rate prior to sale.  This high capture rate combined with loss of habit in the form of deforestation has resulted in only 15,000 grey-cheeked parakeets remaining in the wild.

Similar conditions exist in other countries involved in the parrot trade including Indonesia, Australia, Brazil, Argentina, the Congo,  Nigeria, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, and other countries in the tropics where parrots live.

Parrots are very fragile and often die due to stress when captured. The conditions in which they are kept after capture are often horrendous with dozens of birds stuffed into small cages for transport. Birds used for breeding are often kept in lightless rooms and in very small cages which allow little movement at breeding mills in the US and other countries.

Between 1998 and 2000,  the world trade in parrots totaled over a million birds. The passage of the Wild Bird Conservation Act of 1992 has resulted in far fewer birds for sale. Import of birds into the US declined from 450,000 in 1990 to only about 17,000 today,  of which only 3,600 are wild caught. While this is a good sign,  it should be remembered that for many parrots it is already too late. The loss of habitat in their native lands coupled with the depletion in numbers due to heavy trafficking has pushed them beyond the point of recovery. Some species are already extinct, including the Carolina parakeet, the only member of the parrot family native to the US. It succumbed to hunting and trapping.

Most parrots that are eventually sold end up in homes where they soon become unwelcome guests. Parrots do not make good pets. They need a lot of attention, space, toys, and a very specialized diet that is neither cheap nor easy to prepare. They can be loud and noisy,  they bite, they pluck their feathers out if they’re unhappy. Most people who purchase parrots do not keep them long. The birds end up being passed from one home to another,  which is both demoralizing and traumatizing for the bird.

It is estimated that 75% of all pet birds live a life of neglect or abuse. Birds that pluck their feathers out or become psychotic are not happy. Many eventually die from neglect.

Parrots naturally live in a flock in the wild. Being deprived of a flock contributes to their sense of isolation.

There are an estimated 40-60 million caged birds kept as pets in the US.

“Every person can make a difference every day for animals by making compassionate choices in the marketplace:  don’t buy wild animals as pets,  whether they are caught from the wild or bred in captivity. If we spare the life of just one animal, it’s a 100% positive impact for that creature. If we can solve the larger bird trade problem,  it will be 100% positive for all parrots and other wild birds in the U.S. and beyond our borders.”  ~Mira Tweti