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9:46 PM   April 26, 2015
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The Good, The Bad and The Ugly: Part 3

In my third and final analysis of the pet bird segment, I turned to two of my favorite bird industry icons—Mark Hagen and Dr. Greg Burkett—to answer the question: How can we responsibly revive the declining interest in birds as pets?

You met Dr. Greg Burkett in Part 1 of this series, in which he reported that his business was down significantly over the last few years. He is convinced that the growth opportunities lie with selling handfed budgies and cockatiels.

"They make wonderful pets, and their owners tend to commit to keeping them,” he said. "It’s not just about selling a $10 budgie and a $20 cage. They need to be handfed and sold with a big cage. This would do a lot not only for a store’s business, but also for the bird industry in general. People who buy noisy cockatoos and conures are not as likely to keep their birds.

"I see a real niche opportunity for the right breeder to sell quality handfed keets and tiels to a select group of stores that are committed to educating their customers,” he continued.

"In addition, stores should offer products they can’t find at Big Box stores,” he added. "Some examples would be Goldenfeast, Harrison’s, and Roudybush. These are products that would keep them coming back to their store.”

Mark Hagen, son of the founder of Rolf C. Hagen in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, is the director of the Hagen Avicultural Research Institute (HARI). His thoughts on the subject:

"Big chains often sell budgies in the wrong way; like a dog toy on special and not based on fun or love,” he said. "An ad in a big chain flyer that I visited in Miami last week had a photo of a budgie with a 20 percent off bullet. Will $3 off on a $21 budgie make families consider getting a bird as a family pet? Probably not. Also, the birds were behind glass with no one around to help answer questions on care. I find that incredibly frustrating. Bottom line: Sell quality handfed birds, put them where people can interact with them, and focus on education.”

Thanks to the many people who were willing to share their thoughts, insight and wisdom on the state of the pet bird industry.

This subject is very near and dear to my heart. I have been involved in the bird world for 27 years, and am the proud owner of a 17-year-old eclectus, Murphy Green, and a 2-year-old African Grey, Lola. While I absolutely love being a birdie mom, I would give it all up if I knew there were no more abused, neglected or unwanted birds. While I know this is a lofty goal, we have to start somewhere. Retail stores that sell birds owe it to these amazing creatures to educate potential owners and not sell the birds unless they know for sure the bird is going to an educated, loving, devoted family. That will keep their business thriving and the sanctuaries from filling up. It’s a true win-win.

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