It’s For the Birds

About once a month, I roll out of bed at the crack of dawn, fix a strong cup of coffee, and drive 100 miles out to Louisa, Virginia, whizzing past thousands of frustrated rush hour drivers along the way. What could possibly be worth the long red-eye commute into the wilderness? Project Perry, the Central Virginia Parrot Sanctuary.

This little oasis in the Virginia woods is devoted to the rescue, rehabilitation, adoption, and sanctuary of parrots formerly living in captivity. There are about 150 birds living there in outdoor aviaries and dedicated indoor bird habitats, and the majority come from abusive circumstances. I’ve been volunteering at Project Perry for almost two years. I make the long drive out to feed, clean up after, and spend time with Cockatoos, Macaws, African Greys, and many other varieties of parrots. I visited the sanctuary this past Wednesday.

Some of the residents of the African Grey parrot aviary:

The cockatiel aviary:

One of the former breeder parrots that lives in Project Perry’s dedicated Macaw Room:

A portrait of “Chuchi,” an African Jardine parrot who suffers from a condition known as “Scissors Beak,” in which a birds beak is misaligned. The condition is thought to be caused by malnutrition:

People are often baffled when I tell them that I like birds so much, even more than cats and dogs. How am I able to bond with creatures seemingly so exotic and temperamental? I still can’t really put words to it, but I think I can relate to birds on a certain level – the desire to live unrestrained and out in the open, independent but relying on others for solidarity and support.

It saddens me to know that there are indeed such things as “bird mills,” where breeders keep birds in cramped, unsanitary conditions in order to generate enough babies for the pet trade. It’s also disheartening that so many people buy birds unaware of the commitment necessary to own such a pet, and up neglecting the creatures, leaving them alone in tiny cages for years on end.¬†Pictured below is a breeding box, where parrots sometimes spend 30+ years of their lives:

I was thrilled to discover an organization devoted to helping these abused and neglected birds. I helped create a promotional video for Project Perry in 2010, and have been volunteering at the sanctuary on a semi-regular basis since then. One of the greatest rewards is to watch parrots recover from their dark histories of abuse and neglect and become the beautiful, unfettered creatures they’re meant to be.

Please help Project Perry raise funds for a new aviary, which it will use to house Quaker and Conure parrots.

Posted in: Non-Profit, Photojournalism.


  1. Of course, what a great blog and revealing posts, I definitely will bookmark your website.Best Regards!

  2. OMGosh, someone who knows where Louisa is located! :) I grew up in neighboring Spotsylvania Co. and lived in Louisa for 3 years before moving to the DC area. I never even knew the parrot sanctuary was there!!! This is very cool and I love your work!

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