Oliver Regueiro: Earthbound is a series of portraits of exotic birds sheltered in sanctuaries (PHOTOS).

Here’s What Happens to Exotic Birds When Their Owners Can’t Take Care of Them 

Here’s What Happens to Exotic Birds When Their Owners Can’t Take Care of Them 

Behold
The Photo Blog
June 3 2015 12:25 PM

Here’s What Happens to Exotic Birds When Their Owners Can’t Take Care of Them 

chicki
Chicky, female, Moluccan Cockatoo. Chicky, 36, arrived at the sanctuary in 2009 after her owner passed away. Two months after she arrived, she started spewing blood out of her mouth and nose. She got better, but died four days after this photograph was taken.

Oliver Regueiro

Parrots and other captive birds are now some of the fastest-growing group of displaced animals in the United Sates. These birds, who can live to be 70 or 80 years old in the wild, often need more care than their owners can provide. Oliver Regueiro, who grew up in Venezuela where parrots and macaws are a regular sight, was introduced to the potential perils of exotic birds as pets while watching a documentary on television.  

“I remember seeing them on the side of the road,” he wrote via email. “So for me that was normal—boy was I wrong!” After watching the documentary, Regueiro began researching and learning more about the issues many of the birds face and decided to start small and local, contacting two sanctuaries in Washington State where he lives: Zazu’s House Sanctuary and Mollywood Avian Sanctuary.

bubba
Bubba, male, African Gray (Congo). Bubba, 35, was in a flock, but his flock was given away and Bubbastarted plucking himself. His owner, a veterinarian, sent Bubbato the sanctuary in 2014.

Oliver Regueiro

buddha
Buddha, female, Moluccan Cockatoo. Buddha, 21, was loved by her owners even if they didn’t understand her needs and didn’t cage her, choosing instead to raise her on their shoulders and share meals with her.

Oliver Regueiro

mosley
Mosley, male, Hyacinth Macaw. Mosley, 12, is a handful and stays at the sanctuary from time to time to give his owner some time off.

Oliver Regueiro

“I went to meet with one of them and after seeing the birds and their condition I was sure that’s where I had to start,” he wrote.

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Once he got permission to photograph the birds, he spent a couple of weeks preparing for the shoots and then two days photographing at each sanctuary. The result, “Earthbound,” is a series of portraits of the birds along with a brief biography of how they ended up at the sanctuary.

“I was amazed how unique they are,” he wrote. “They have well defined personalities. The way they look at you, you feel they are looking into you. It’s a really deep look.”

sugar
Scruffy Joe, male, Citron cockatoo. Joe, early 20s, was given to the sanctuary after his owner decided the bird needed more than he could manage.

Oliver Regueiro

grandpa
Grandpa, male, Moluccan cockatoo. Grandpa, 72, is the oldest bird Regueiro photographed. He spent 20 years in a wildlife park before going to the sanctuary at 60. Regueiro was only able to take one photograph since Grandpa was getting anxious and didn’t like the shoot. He also has a girlfriend.

Oliver Regueiro

He photographed them on white backgrounds to keep the focus on the birds.

“I wanted to eliminate anything fancy. The lighting was set to get every detail on the birds, both the pretty details and the not so pretty ones. I also wanted to photograph beautiful birds in perfect condition because not every pet has been abused and neglected. Some of them get a lot of love for now. After all, most of them might outlive their current owners. On the other hand I was amazed how nasty humans are. Some of the birds have been abused to the point of being extremely traumatized. Not to mention the physical abuse. I wanted people to connect with the portraits on a human level, in the same way we connect to a portrait of people. We recognize the emotions on a person’s face and can relate to them, but we can’t do the same with a bird. So I decided to write their story to make it easier for people to have that connection.”

Prints from “Earthbound” are available for purchase through Regueiro’s website.

gandi
Gandy Roo, female, Umbrella Cockatoo. Gandy, 20, is an outstanding screamer who appears to be somewhat bipolar and shows signs of having been abused sometime in her life.

Oliver Regueiro

einstein
Einstein, male, Yellow Crown Amazon. Einstein, 40, arrived at the sanctuary after his owner died.

Oliver Regueiro

elizabeth
Elizabeth, female, Green-winged Macaw. Elizabeth, 10, arrived at the sanctuary in 2011 when her owner didn’t want to pay for her care. The sanctuary took her in and changed her diet as well as provided physical therapy for a previously broken leg.

Oliver Regueiro

David Rosenberg is the editor of Slate’s Behold blog. He has worked as a photo editor for 15 years and is a tennis junkie. Follow him on Twitter.