Just like birds of a feather, bird lovers flock together too.
This weekend, 35 people who raise and breed birds for fun – there’s really no profit in it – descended on the Vandora Masonic Lodge in Garner with more than 300 love birds, cockatiels and parrots in tow. They came from as far away as Puerto Rico for the two-day regional exhibition, which concludes Sunday. It is the largest competition being held on the East Coast this year.
The opportunity to compete was certainly a draw, but so is the camaraderie of being with fellow breeders and aviculturists who have dozens, or hundreds, of birds.
“I don’t think anybody is out for blood,” said Ken Synder, 63, a retiree who drove 1,050 miles from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, with his wife, Jeanne, and 15 show birds. “We talk about birds. We trade birds....We get to see people we haven’t seen all winter.”
Snyder is fascinated by the genetics of breeding, mixing and matching two birds. If you do it right, he said, you can bring out their best and block out their worst.
Snyder, who has nearly 100 love birds at home, volunteered that “they can be rowdy little buggers.”
“They can bite. They can let themselves out of their cages” by lifting the cage doors, he said. “They like to chew things when they get out. They like to chew Venetian blinds, papers.”
Alvaro Lopez, a social worker who lives in Washingtonville, N.Y., brought 16 birds with him. “I breed them because I love the genetics,” he said. “I love trying to find the next best bird.”
Lopez knows of what he speaks. Last year one of his love birds took top honors at the national exhibition held in Dayton, Ohio.
Although many birds talk, conversational skills aren’t part of this competition.
“It’s a beauty pageant, not a talent contest,” said Susan Stieve, 50, a curator at the Ornamental Plant Germplasm Center at Ohio State University. She brought five love birds, 10 cockatiels and 17 parrots with her from Columbus, Ohio.
The aesthetics that the judges apply to evaluate the birds include a host of factors such as shape, size, color and conditioning – and even deportment.
“You want the head to be nice and round,” said Wendy Edwards, 54, an office manager from Youngsville who is one of the judges. “You want the chest to be full.”
The judges also carried wooden dowel rods to coax the birds onto their perches – if, say, they were hanging upside down – in order to inspect them from the best vantage point.
“You want to see they have all their toenails and all their toes and no missing feathers on their legs,” Edwards said.
Although talking, warbling or screeching isn’t considered by the judges, that’s not to say that these avian competitors maintain a strict code of silence. It turns out that if you put more than 300 individually caged birds in the basement of a Masonic lodge, the collective result is a noise to experience...if, that is, you’re a newcomer to such competitions.
“In the beginning, it’s just noise everywhere,” Lopez said. “But after awhile it is like normal...It’s just like if you live near a highway.”
These quotes are for the birds
“I think we consider too much the good luck of the early bird and not enough the bad luck of the early worm.” – President Franklin D. Roosevelt
“A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.” – writer Maya Angelou
“If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, we have at least to consider the possibility that we have a small aquatic bird of the family anatidae on our hands.” – writer Douglas Adams
“It’s impossible to explain creativity. It’s like asking a bird, ‘How do you fly?’ You just do.” – writer Eric Jerome Dickey
Regional bird exhibition
Sunday is the second and final day of the regional bird exhibition, which is free to spectators. It’s being held from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Vandora Masonic Lodge at 1118 Benson Road in Garner.
The exhibition is sponsored by the Mid-Atlantic Cooperative of Bird Breeders and Exhibitors, the African Love Bird Society, the North American Parrot Society and the National Cockatiel Society.