Cape mall show displays exotic birds

Sunday, November 28, 2004

More than just shoppers fluttered about the Westfield Shoppingtown West Park Mall this weekend.

Tom Shaffer of A Wing and a Prayer, a new promotional company for bird shows, put together a display of nearly 30 exotic birds, something most shoppers didn't expect.

"They were lined up at 5 a.m. Friday to get in, and they didn't know what to think of us at first," said Lisa Copeland, owner of Wings and Things, a distributor of birds and bird-care products and one of two vendors at the event.

But it didn't take long for shoppers to start flocking to the colorful birds that sat perched in the open for petting and handling. Some whipped out their cell phones to tell their friends about the show.

Shaffer travels in Missouri, Illinois and Kentucky soliciting vendors and securing locations for bird shows. One of his goals is to educate the public and promote awareness on the proper care and handling of varieties of parrots, such as cockatoos, macaws and eclectus.

Birds have been a 12-year passion for Copeland, a retired registered nurse from St. Louis.

"Looking at the birds is like looking at the world," she said as she pointed out birds from Africa, South America, Australia and Indonesia. Copeland and her husband raise the birds from the time they hatch to the time they are weaned and ready to sell.

"They are like one of the family by then," she said.

Jaime Naas, also of Wings and Things, is the founder of the Tri-State Bird Club, a sponsor of the show. She too wants to promote respect for the birds and instruct others in their care and handling. "The birds go everywhere I go," she said. "I always have one in the car with me."

Naas also works closely with the Australian Rescue and Rehab in Southern Illinois, an organization that cares for abused, neglected and abandoned exotic birds.

One of Naas's favorites is Bo, a scarlet red parrot that was placed into the rehabilitation program a few weeks ago because it was "too mean to handle."

But at the show, he sat on the shoulder of Josie Pijanowski, a third-grader from Poplar Bluff, Mo. Josie thought the experience was "pretty cool" except when Bo screeched in her ear.

Shaffer delights in watching a family approach the birds. "The parents will usually stand back a little," he said, "but the little 5-year-old will walk right up to them and start petting."

Amanda Allison, 6, of Steele, Mo., had come to the mall so her mother could shop. Her favorite was a 4-month-old blue mealy Amazon parrot. "I like him because he's a baby," she said.

Henry Kennemore of Cape Girardeau was surprised at how friendly the birds were. "It's a good thing to get people involved with the birds," he said.

The show will return to the mall in the spring.

Shaffer said that show "will be even bigger with more vendors and more birds."

The show ends today.

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