top of page

Dealing with loss: An empty food dish

By: Tara Smith

Sometimes the hardest thing about rescue is the empty food dish.

Over the first part of June, one of my foster birds died unexpectedly. Death in rescue is not uncommon, but is also not an everyday occurrence. Ages and prior health conditions are not always known when a bird comes into rescue. The passing of a bird usually doesn’t affect me until the next feeding time. When I collect all the food dishes for the various birds out of the cabinet and have to mentally remind myself that I need one less. For me, feeding time is cathartic. As I fill the dishes, the flock starts talking and calling out with excitement. Once those dishes are placed in the holders the house is quiet, except for one non-food motivated Moluccan Cockatoo who likes to keep chattering away. When I take the food dishes into the bird room I feed my personal macaw first and wait for him to grab his snap pea before moving to the next bird. As I make my way around the room bird by bird, I enjoy watching how picky some are when they throw specific food out of their dishes immediately, or listening for Goji (Female Ekkie) to happily honk or yell “Goji Rawwrrr,” when she digs for her banana chips, or how angry she gets if I forget to give them to her. When I get to where the missing dish should go, I pause to remember the bird who passed and remind myself why we do what we do in rescue. My goal when bringing in a new foster bird is to be a soft landing spot that is a better place than where they came from; sometimes this is very easy and sometimes it can be overwhelming. I try not to become overly attached to foster birds, but it is often too hard not to love each of them. When they are adopted out, I know the next feeding will be hard when their food dish at my house remains empty, but I know their dish is being filled up at their forever home.


Tara is a Board Member and serves as the Foster and Intake Coordinator for Exotic Bird Rescue of Oregon. She and her family care for a mixed flock of 14 birds, both personal and foster. Tara particularly likes working with birds who pluck or have special needs. #loss #death #sadness #foster



bottom of page