Louisa Bird Sanctuary to Expand

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Birds at Project Perry sanctuary Birds at Project Perry sanctuary

A sanctuary in Louisa County is expanding to provide more birds with a forever home.

The sanctuary was started by Matt Smith, who only got to spend about a year with his bird Perry before she died of a disease. After that, he decided to start Project Perry and devote his life to giving a good home to birds in need.

"Through her passing it led me into this line of work," Smith said. "It's been growing ever since."

Project Perry is now a forever home for 150 parrots. Smith estimates they have dozens of species - from African Grays, parakeets, and macaws, to finches, cockatiels, and conures.

The birds come from all different places. Some come from individuals who can no longer care for them, some come from other shelters, and many make their way to Louisa from breeders all around the world.

"Some of the birds will come to us voluntarily through retirement from the breeder, or sometimes in a cruelty case," said Smith.

Project Perry has taken on a four-fold mission: rescue, rehabilitation, adoption, and sanctuary.

They also aim to educate people about owning birds. Kristin Hicks, the development manager for Project Perry, said many people take on more than they can handle when it comes to adopting a parrot.

"They're fascinating creatures, but I can completely understand why they can be difficult as pets," said Hicks. "They engage in activities that are completely natural and that they can engage in their native environment, but to people they can be annoying and destructive - so the biting, scratching, the chewing, the loud noises."

Hicks said that a lot of times birds seem like a fun pet at first. People will see them at pet stores and want to buy one without thinking much about the sacrifices of taking care of it. "They'll say, 'that looks like a fun pet. It's bright, it's colorful, I can teach it to say things like the cliché 'Polly want a cracker,'" she said. "And so once its newness wears off, anywhere from six weeks to six months, they get bored with it and they find it to be annoying."

Birds need constant care and attention, and require food and vet visits.

"And so people start to let some of that slack off and so the bird can become more aggressive and agitated just like a neglected child," Hicks said.

When that happens, Hicks said there can be a lot of bad situations. Not everyone can find a new home for their pet.

"Some people open their window and let these birds out. A lot of these birds are from tropical climates they cannot survive a Virginia winter, and also they become easy prey for Virginia birds like the hawk or the falcon," Hicks said.

That's why there's such a need for the sanctuary. But every bird is not fortunate enough to land there. Last year alone, there were requests for nearly 700 birds but only 13 got to go to Project Perry.

"We can't take in every bird that anyone ever calls or emails us about because that would be unrealistic for us as a nonprofit to take on the financial burden that comes along with that," hicks said.

Project Perry has a $150,000 annual budget, which comes from public donations and foundations. That provides space and resources for each bird for the rest of its life.

"We're always in the process of trying to acquire donations for any amount. Any dollar truly does help us," said Hicks.

Now they're expanding from three to five aviaries so a few dozen more birds can make a home there. People are already waiting to send birds once construction is complete.

The people at Project Perry are shooting for a fall completion for the new aviaries. They still have $50,000 worth of supplies to purchase and they're hoping for donations from the public. They are also looking for volunteers.

If you'd like to volunteer or provide a financial contribution click here. Since Project Perry is a certified nonprofit, donations are tax deductible. 

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