Minneapolis + St Paul Pet Photography Blog

maars :: april rescue of the month

I’m excited to mix things up a bit, and to support Midwest Avian Adoption and Rescue Services as the Rescue of the Month for April! So many of us are “dog people” or “cat people” and there is an abundance of shelters and rescues for our furry friends. It’s easy to overlook the more nontraditional animals who need our help just as much.

I had no idea there was such a thing as a bird rescue until a friend suggested MAARS as a potential Rescue of the Month. I was very excited to learn about them and be able to promote and help this wonderful group. I grew up with a parakeet named Zak. He was yellow and green and lived to be about 7 years old. He was great….. he’d sit on my shoulder while I played piano, he’d fly around the house, sit on his stuffed rabbit at the mirror and talk to himself. And every morning he’d be sure to let me know the sun was out and it was time to get up  :)

Like most people, I didn’t know much about keeping birds as pets, but I did my research and I like to think I gave Zak a pretty good life. In retrospect, and with more education and knowledge, I now know that Zak would probably have been much happier with a companion bird, and possibly even happier still having not been domesticated at all.

Far too many people purchase birds as a novelty pet, with very little knowledge about their health, both mentally and physically. I know I, for one, never knew that birds need veterinary care just as any other animal. Birds are *very* intelligent, social creatures, and many people are not prepared for the noise, mess, expense, and time commitment it involves.

Many birds — even hand-fed babies — lose their homes when their adolescent hormones kick in, and their caretakers are frightened and frustrated by their birds’ new aggressive behaviors. In the wild, these adult social behaviors make sense, but in our homes, they present a challenge. Many people are not prepared to lovingly nurture their parrot through these changes, but opt, instead, to get rid of their first bird and buy another cuddly, hand-fed baby. Parrot breeders are happy to provide the (often) expensive replacements, and the cycle continues. Adding further to the problem, parrots are potentially very long-lived. This means that even a well-cared-for, well-adapted captive parrot could require several homes throughout its lifetime if it outlives its caretakers or their ability to care for it.

MAARS was created in response to all of the throw-away birds whose needs are not being met: Those who will lose their homes because their loving human caretakers become ill, start a human family, move, or experience another life change. Those who are bought to serve only as living room decorations, status symbols, or business mascots. Those who will be “replaced” by a more handleable baby when their adult instincts start showing. Those who are born with or develop physical or mental health problems in captivity. Those who will overwhelm a bird breeder or collector with their numbers. Those who will be sentenced to languishing in small filthy cages, never again to feel the sun polish their feathers, or know the exhilaration of flight, or hear a loving voice. Those whose hearts will ache with loneliness and whose minds will be tormented by boredom and confinement. Those who are merely waiting to die.

MAARS is home to hundreds of birds, who are cared for by over 60 volunteers. My visit to the sanctuary was emotional and eye-opening. I was surprised at the number of birds who had self-mutilated (plucked out their own feathers) and learned that they do it for the same reasons humans hurt themselves…. mental anguish, depression, stress.

The  MAARS birds are separated into rooms that are breed- or behavior-specific. They’re beautiful, strange, and the way they look into your eyes is so intense and personal, it’s not hard to see why people are drawn to them. There was one small parrot that followed us around as I was taking photos, and I later learned that he generally doesn’t like new people, but seemed very interested in me. In fact, in all the rooms we visited, the birds didn’t make much of a fuss at all. I’ve got good bird vibes, I guess  :)

This first Moluccan is named Carly, and his story is very sad. He’s missing an eye and has brain damage after being hit with a bat. I can’t even fathom how someone could bring themselves to do that.

Some examples of the feather plucking….

This Ringneck (on the left) has been desperately trying to find a companion in the Cockatiel and Parakeet room. He has yet to find a suitor to return his affection. But he looks cute trying  :)

The “loud bird” room was definitely LOUD. Home to Lovebirds, Sun Conures and Lorikeets, amongst others, you could barely hear each other talk in here.

I had a nice chat with this guy when I arrived and when I left. He’s very good at saying “hello,” and was intrigued by my camera.

I encourage you to check out the MAARS website here to learn more about the reality of pet birds.

If you’d like to donate and become a member, click here.

Like all rescues, they are continually in need of more volunteers, as well as supplies. View their wish list here and see what you might have to donate.

For a list of all contact emails and phone numbers, please click here.

I hope some of you will find it in your hearts to help our feathered friends as well as the furry.


Hi! I'm Sarah, but feel free to call me Sarah Beth. I've been a professional photographer for over 17 years, and I've been an animal lover and an artist my entire life. Read More . . .


Sarah Ernhart
Sarah Beth Photography

2205 California St. NE, Suite 101
Minneapolis, MN 55418