What could be better than grabbing a coffee with a bunch of talking, squawking parrots?
Maybe taking one home?
Last month the country’s first parrot cafe, The Perch, opened its doors in the mile-high city of Colorado Springs. The new pet-store-meets-coffee-shop provides a shared space for animal lovers, aspiring parrot owners, and an eclectic flock of adoptable birds.
Cafe owners Erik and Michele Wolf have spent nearly 16 years living with birds. Back in 2013, they helped found the Metro Denver Parrot Rescue (MDPR), a nonprofit organization that’s arranged 250 adoptions across Colorado. But as the number of surrendered pets continued to rise, the Wolfs' affinity for helping birds quickly outgrew the state's foster network; the rescue was overwhelmed by an influx of abused birds. “Last fall, we got 20 parrots from a cruelty case in just one afternoon. It was a mad rush to figure out where we were going to put those birds,” Erik says. The Wolfs knew that if the nonprofit was to last, it would need a space that could generate income, provide outreach, and be able to house birds of all shapes and sizes.
The stars aligned when a storefront freed up in the retail building that the couple owns: The spacious floor plan was exactly what the rescue needed. In addition to serving as an adoption hub—all candidates go through MDPR’s rigorous application and screening process—it also offers a full line of bird food, supplies, cages, playstands, and toys. Coffee, hot drinks, and locally baked sweet treats are available for sale on the side, with all proceeds going toward MDPR’s efforts.
“Folks can come here to do their shopping, hang out for two hours, and have a cup of coffee and watch the birds, or meet some of the birds if that’s what they want to do,” Erik says. “We really wanted to make this a place for the community.” And if a customer is interested in a particular bird, they can request to interact with it in the comfort of the cafe’s lounge to see if it’s a good match.
Pop-up pet shops are nothing new. Between dreadful owl cafes and urban cat gardens, the kitsch idea has worn out its novelty (though the controversy around them is still ripe). But The Perch is set on proving that it’s more than just another petting zoo with coffee. It's not only a social space, but also a learning zone, where pet owners and novices alike can study up on the plight of captive parrots.
All of the birds in the shop were in homes at some point. With some parrot species living up to 50 years, the death of an owner or other sudden changes can leave many well-loved birds out on the street. Typically, animal shelters aren't equipped to take in avians, especially larger ones like cockatoos and macaws. This results in some pets getting trapped in rough homes, or worse, released into the wild where they can’t fend for themselves.
In addition to helping castaways find a place, The Perch is determined to make sure adopters know exactly what to expect if they choose to bring a bird into their life. Currently, MDPR has nearly two dozen parakeets, macaws, Amazon parrots, and finches up for adoption at the cafe—and almost twice that number in quarantine and foster homes. (Birds with special needs are given one-on-one care by MDPR volunteers in a quieter environment.) All of The Perch’s (paid) staff has extensive experience and is available to answer questions about parrot behavior, discuss the right match between bird and home, go over a pet’s mental and physical needs, or just talk about how much they love their feathered friends. Of course, if all you’re looking to do is sip a cup of joe while listening to endless parrot chatter, you can do that, too. The birds don’t mind either way.
Correction: The Wolfs have owned birds for 16 years, but haven't rehabilitated and fostered them for that entire time.