With a cup of coffee, brewed from Spanish Peaks beans, and a pastry from nearby Old School Bakery, I took a moment to enjoy breakfast and watch a bonded pair of blue-and-yellow macaws preening each other. It's easy to forget how big these iconic birds are — from beak to tail tip, they're around 3 feet long, and their wingspans typically exceed 31/2 feet.
I'm enjoying my morning at The Perch, located on the corner of Eighth and Brookside streets, before co-owner Erik Wolf takes me on a tour of his parrot shelter/bird supply store/café. Erik, along with wife Michele and veterinarian Dr. Noel Opitz, started Metro Denver Parrot Rescue three years ago, seeking to provide specialized shelter, fostering and adoption services focused on parrots and other birds. They've since adopted out over 250 birds.
At first, MDPR relied entirely on foster carers for its birds. But Erik wasn't happy with the situation.
"Foster home burnout was a very real risk for us," he says. "If we had a couple of people who suddenly couldn't do it anymore, it was going to be a bad situation."
Fortunately, the nearby consignment furniture store they purchased about a year and a half ago came with a second building. When the previous renter, the Mattress Gallery, chose not to renew their lease, Erik and Michele turned it into the home base for MDPR. Having their own facility allows them not only to lean less on their foster carers, but to better quarantine birds and prevent the spread of common diseases like psittacosis.
"These populations don't at any point share air with each other," he says. "It's quite a thing."
The café space also provides an opportunity for them to find better matches for their big birds — budgies, doves and the like can be adopted the same day, but it takes two to four weeks to adopt a parrot, including an online course and a home inspection.
Parrots especially are very different from cats and dogs; they're prey animals. They don't trust humans as quickly as dogs and cats do. Having time to get to know a potential pet parrot is important, especially since those aforementioned macaws can live 70 years or longer.