Jenny Tamas of Greyhaven Exotic Bird Sanctuary spends some time with Coco and Ariel

Tsawwassen home a sanctuary for exotic birds

Greyhaven Exotic Bird Sanctuary a retirement home of sorts for long-lived birds

When Blackbeard has downed his last bottle of rum and drifted off to Davy Jones’ Locker, what happens to his faithful shoulder-sitting parrot?

It’s a question that any bird owner should be asking himself or herself, since exotic birds have lifespans that rival, and sometimes exceed, that of their human companions.

In fact, the average parrot will live to 95 years in the wild, and up to 75 years in captivity. That means an adult buying a young parrot in a pet store will likely die long before it will.

And if there’s nobody to care for the bird, chances are it will wind up at Greyhaven Exotic Bird Sanctuary in Tsawwassen where the bird is left puzzled at its new surroundings.

Jenny Tamas, who has been volunteering with Greyhaven for 10 years, says people buy birds without really knowing anything about them.

“They get them and they don’t realize they’re going to live 30, 40, 50 years,” she says. “And it’s a huge commitment.”

Tamas takes Ariel out of her cage and hugs the 12-year-old macaw gently. Nearby in her own cage is 26-year-old Coco, another macaw who doesn’t quite like so much affection (she bites).

All parrots have different personalities, explains Tamas. Cody, a 40-year-old African grey, squawks out, “It’s time for beer.” His previous owner kept him in a cage and never let him out.

The popular African grey and macaw parrots are purchased by people who like the idea of a bird that talks, but soon grow tired of the noise and get rid of them. Tamas says most long-living birds will have an average of seven different owners.

She says people don’t realize the birds can be destructive to furniture, are loud, and can get nervous habits that require veterinary care. They are then passed from home to home using social sites like Craigslist and Kijiji.

Tamas says most people will call Greyhaven and the first question will be about the biggest birds.

“I’ll ask what kind they’re looking for and they’ll say, I don’t know, give me the biggest you’ve got.”

That’s a red flag for Greyhaven, which aims to find the perfect home for discarded birds, most of which come from owner surrender. The shelter took in over 218 birds in 2012 and adopted out 182, accepting surrenders from as far as Hope and parts of Vancouver Island.

Exotic birds in B.C. are usually bred in captivity and sold by pet stores or bird marts. Parrots, cockatiels, canaries and budgerigars are all common impulse buys for people looking for a pet that they think is low maintenance.

The budgerigar, or “budgie,” is the world’s most common “throwaway bird” according to Tamas, because they are the cheapest parrot money can buy and they can often learn to vocalize words and sentences.

Tamas says Greyhaven receives a lot of cockatiels and other small birds when seniors go into care homes.

Greyhaven was started 17 years ago by a couple who only took in small birds like budgies and canaries. But then they got an African grey parrot and it not only changed the name but the outlook of the rescue.

The non-profit is now composed of dozens of volunteers with five members who sit on its board of directors. Tamas donates hours each day to feeding the birds, cleaning up after them, and showing them love and attention.

“We just have all committed because we love the birds and someone has to look after them.”

There’s an interview process before Greyhaven will adopt out a bird to somebody, including a home visit to determine suitability. It’s during that visit that Tamas will sometimes identify hazards to the bird, such as a large pet with predatory instincts.

Tamas urges potential adopters to research before buying a bird so they’re not abandoned later.

The most emotional part of her job is letting the birds go to a family with the hope it will be treated right.

“A little piece of yourself goes with each one of them,” she says. “The nice part is when you find somebody who loves their bird.

For more information on the birds or to donate visit

Just Posted

4-year-old child injured in Surrey after falling out window

Child fell out of third-storey window, expected to fully recover

City of White Rock hosts official pier reopening

Event included ribbon-cutting, speeches, live music

Surrey school district to allow students to miss class for global climate strike

Students must be excused from school by parents; will be able to make up missed work without penalty

Surrey rallies for change in global climate strike

Holland Park event part of marches around the world Sept. 20

Surrey RCMP need help to find missing man

Denis Godard, 64, who was reported missing on Sept. 19

VIDEO: A moment to remember during the World Lacrosse Men’s Indoor Championship in B.C.

Diego Hernandez Valenzuela’s team lost, but he felt like a winner Saturday

B.C. VIEWS: School officials join fact-free ‘climate strike’

Students, public get distorted picture of greenhouse gases

Vancouver Giants complete weekend sweep of Cougars

Back-to-back road trip victories for Langley-based team

Handgun crackdown, health spending and transit plans latest campaign promises

Friday was the end of a busy week on the campaign trail

B.C. woman photographs massive ant swarm on Abbotsford driveway

She asked what the ants were doing? The answer: war

Iconic 90s TV show ‘Friends’ celebrates 25th anniversary

The iconic, decade-long television show aired its first episode 25 years ago today

Westbound crash on Highway 1 in Langley causing extreme traffic delays

Collision occured just after Glover Road, cars backed up all the way to 264th Street

Police arrest B.C. phone scammer linked to illegal call centres in India

Person arrested in Burnaby here on a work visa, says police

Air Canada forced girl, 12, to remove hijab: civil rights group

The San Francisco Bay Area office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations calling for change

Most Read