LENOIR COUNTY, N.C. — As the cost of food, housing and other basic needs has gone up, some pet owners have had to make the difficult decision to surrender their pets. Shelter Animals Count, an organization that compiles data from animal shelters across the country, says that in 2023, more than 6.5 million animals entered shelters and rescue organizations, and over one million of those were surrenders.

That number is just for dogs and cats. Birds — which can be difficult companions to tame and can even outlive their owners — face a higher risk of being surrendered. That’s why the Cape Feat Parrot Sanctuary in Lenoir County says people should seriously consider the level of care these non-domesticated animals need before adopting.

     What You Need To Know

  • There are nearly 700 surrendered parrots at the Cape Fear Parrot Sanctuary

  • Birds are not domesticated and can be quite difficult to care for, especially for an owner who doesn’t have previous experience with birds

  • The Cape Fear Parrot Sanctuary recommends working with birds and volunteering before deciding if a bird is the right pet for you

The Cape Fear Parrot Sanctuary was started by Ces Erdman ten years ago, and since then, he’s taken in almost 700 parrots.

This parrot loves to eat peanuts. (Spectrum News 1/Natalie Mooney)
This parrot loves to eat peanuts. (Spectrum News 1/Natalie Mooney)

“They’re not rescues, they were all cared for, but something's happened,” explained Erdman, “Cancer, divorce, death, moving, and they just couldn’t keep the bird anymore.”

Erdman knows the joys of having a bird as a companion.

“I had my first cockatiel at 3, and he was really friendly,” said Erdman, “So all my baby pictures had me with a cockatiel on my shoulder.”

But as he got older, he understood that keeping a bird as a pet isn’t always the best option for the owner or the bird.

Ces Erdman wants these surrendered birds to have as free of a life as they can. (Spectrum News 1/Natalie Mooney)

“I just feel like parrots deserve more, you know they need the flight, they need the friendships, they need the rain,” said Erdman. “You know, mine needed more than what I was able to give them.”

And that’s how many bird owners feel, which is why so many have ended up being surrendered to the sanctuary.

Erdman says it’s incredibly important to do your research before getting any pet, especially a bird.

A cheeky cockatiel poses for the camera. (Spectrum News 1/Natalie Mooney)

“Parrots are not domesticated, they’re tamed, so that means they can be very difficult,” said Erdman, “Again, I refer dogs and cats because we’re all familiar with dogs and cats, they require different things than dogs, and if they don’t get what they need, they will act out, and acting out can be aggression, biting, and even a smaller beak can do a lot of damage on your finger.”

Although, these birds have been surrendered, that doesn’t mean they can’t be happy. Erdman’s proud to give these parrots a place where they can just be birds again.

“They’re on their own timeframe for the first time ever, mine just waited for me all day long, and that’s not fair to them, and even when they came out, they still weren’t happy, they were still wanting something different, and I just didn’t know what that was,” said Erdman. “And now I know what it was, they just wanted more freedom, so I gave it to them.”

"We speak parrot here." (Spectrum News 1/Natalie Mooney)

There are plenty of resources available online to help you figure out if a bird is a good pet for you, but Erdman says it’s best to be around them in person or volunteer where you can to see if it’s a responsibility you can take on. 

The Cape Fear Parrot Sanctuary is open by appointment only and requires a $10 entry fee to visit them and say hello — some of them might even say hi back.

If you want to volunteer at the Cape Fear Parrot Sanctuary or donate to its cause, click here.