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North Hills Monthly

Parrot Education, Adoption and Rehoming League Works to Find Homes for Unwanted Birds

Mar 30, 2020 04:14PM ● By Kathleen Ganster

Parrots are fascinating birds—beautiful, intelligent and often great company. They can also be very pricey, adding to the status symbol of owning one. Birds are the third most popular pet after dogs and cats (not including fish), with populations estimated by some sources to top 100 million birds in the U.S. this year.

But parrots can often be very challenging pets, according to Jacob Ulishney, executive director of PEARL Parrot Rescue.

“They are not domesticated animals like cats and dogs, and they are incredibly intelligent and emotional,” he explained. “The combination of the fact that they are still wild animals with the estimated intellectual ability and emotional intelligence of a 2- to 4-year-old human child, means they require very specialized care and attention.”

It is that challenge—caring and keeping such an intelligent bird happy—that can create a bad situation for many parrots.

“It is estimated that approximately 80 percent of parrots are rehomed or abandoned within two years of the initial purchase,” said Ulishney. “Regrettably, there are not many rescues for these birds to go to once they are unwanted.”

Unlike many surrendered pets, parrots cannot go into traditional rescue shelters, which is where PEARL comes in. PEARL, otherwise known as Parrot Education, Adoption, and Rehoming League, is a nonprofit organization that rescues and rehomes unwanted parrots in the Greater Pittsburgh area.

According to Ulishney, there are a handful of people who take in and try to rehome birds in western Pennsylvania. PEARL is the only organization that focuses on the quality of care and educating all potential adopters to ensure that the birds that are adopted find a safe and committed new home. In line with those goals, PEARL offers several classes including Standard of Care, Avian Nutrition, Parrot Enrichment and Toy Making, and Positive Reinforcement training.

“A major part of our mission is to teach the public on proper avian husbandry to try and reduce the amount of unwanted and neglected birds in captivity,” said Ulishney. “We want to break the cycle of parrots that are surrendered by fully preparing people about just how much work they require.”

In 2019, PEARL had 44 birds relinquished to their care, and were able to rehome 35 of them. The all-volunteer organization provides foster homes for unwanted parrots, and works to rehome the birds to owners that have passed their educational requirements and home visits.

“These are animals with very complex social structures; they are very intelligent and when we put them in homes, this is an unnatural situation,” said Ulishney. “We want owners to know and understand this.”

Oftentimes, those who purchase parrots don’t realize just how difficult they are as pets until they reach full maturity, which can take up to five years.

“They are flock birds, so their owner becomes their flock and when that flock can’t meet their needs, the birds may display unwanted behavior,” said Ulishney, adding that that could include loud screaming and squawking at all hours of the day, biting and other troubling issues.

“When they are baby birds, they can be very different from when they reach sexual maturity,” he continued. “You may have a sweet and loving bird for five years and then it changes.”

Ulishney, who has several birds himself, said parrots can live a very long time which can also create problems if the owner moves, passes, or bores of the pet. “A lot them can live for decades,” he said.

Those interested in surrendering, adopting or volunteering parrots should visit for more information.