Many of us get pets for various reasons, companionship or the kids keep begging for one. Whatever it is, everyone can agree that it takes work to raise a pet. When it comes to pet parrots, however, there’s a whole host of challenges that people often don't consider before it’s too late. And as WGBH’s Cristina Quinn shows us, one New England organization is trying to raise awareness about an overwhelming problem.

Foster Parrots, a sanctuary in Hope Valley, Rhode Island, houses close to 400 exotic birds. Here, the greetings of the blue and yellow Macaws compete with the shrill screeches of cockatoos. Amazons gaze suspiciously as African Greys make their presence known.

Director of the sanctuary, Danika Oriol-Morway, says, “Foster parrots is involved in conservation, education, adoption rescue and sanctuary. So this right here is a permanent lifelong care facility for homeless parrots and other displaced exotic pets … We have basically every possible species. Anything from the common budgy parakeet cockateels to medium size African greys, large macaws, cockatoos.”

These parrots wound up here because they were abused, unwanted, or simply outlived their owners. In a karmic twist, the sanctuary sits on 23 acres of land that was once a chicken farm. It’s now divided into 3 major aviaries based on species, age and the varying needs of the birds.

“Our job is to give them options,” says Oriol-Morway. “Some will not eat out of a bowl, some will eat on the ground. So our job is to basically address every individual personality and ability of the animals here. Ideally, we’d have them all eating and foraging

It’s not unusual for some parrots to live to 100. And their demands vary widely. Birds who were hand raised are often human-bonded, and have a hard time being around other birds. Some parrots who came from a home where they never left their cages still won’t leave. The transition period for many of these birds to adjust to life in the sanctuary can take years.

They are very sensitive. Some birds even have to wear protective armor because they pluck their own feathers to the point of injury.

Foster Parrots receive 500-700 surrender requests annually from pet owners who just can’t take the noise anymore. Co-founder Karen Windsor says they turn most of them away, taking in mainly birds who are in a life or death situations. But she says that all of this means we need to reevaluate the roles pets play in our lives.

They’re an intelligent wild animal and a cage is not a stimulating environment for these animals. They’re really complex. Their psychology is complex,” says Windsor. “So probably the #1 form of abuse of parrots in captivity is neglect. It’s that benign neglect. We are complicit in that neglect but when we walk out the door and when we fail to provide that companionship, that is probably the most prevalent form of abuse of parrots in captivity.”

Windsor says if you really think you are up to the task of taking a parrot home—don’t buy one, but adopt. And make it more about what you can give the bird instead of the other way around.