By Rose Gordon
The Morning Chorus
The sound is deafening when we open the door to the boarders’ room at Omar’s Exotic Birds, Inc. Several cockatoos (a sulphur crest, a couple of Goffin’s and a slender-billed corella that asks for a cup of tea with a British accent) are competing to see which can honk the loudest. They strain their necks to peek around the cage bars. The macaws, many of which are flock mates and housed in twos, are scrambling around their cages, adding to the morning chorus.
Cyndee Crumly, a 20-year veteran in the bird community, quickly slips in ear plugs while Eloda Martinez pushes the cart loaded with food and water dishes through the narrow aisle that separates bird cages. My pant pockets are beaked several times by a frisky scarlet as I bend down to place a crock dish in a cage.
Cyndee and Eloda move swiftly, distributing rations to their wards, but I hesitate when a regal-looking grey tries to escape from his cage and onto my hand. “Just put him back,” Cyndee says and keeps moving. The boarder room is mostly comprised of large parrots, but there is a pair of parrotlets and a toucan, too.
As “bird-people,” we often have to go out of our way to seek out a reputable pet store that will carry necessary bird supplies and have sufficient bird knowledge. Many of us remember the first bird that touched and changed our lives, but I also remember my first real bird store.
It was a small store in South Portland, Maine. What I remember the most about it was that the owner always had a bird on his arm and knew a lot about birds. He could always recommend a cuttlebone or a trick for slipping peas and pellets into your bird’s diet. Many of the birds I bought from the store were hand-fed by the owner himself. I later boarded them there without fear of having my birds relegated to a back corner with little interaction.
At California’s Omar’s Exotic Birds (www.omarsexoticbirds.com), there is this same sense of community. Omar Gonzalez, who operates three Omar stores with his wife, Carolyn Gonzalez, opened his first store in 1984 after being dissatisfied with the condition of nearby pet-bird stores. Today, Omar’s has a huge following in Southern California. It is a place where the popcorn in “Mom’s Healthy Snack Mix” is still air-popped by Omar’s mom, Rosario. I spent a day with the staff of Omar’s new San Juan Capistrano location to find out what it takes to run a successful pet bird store.
*Purchase the May issue for the full article and photos.