15 February 2024

Birds of a feather flock to Illawarra Parrot Club ahead of annual bird expo

| Keeli Royle
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Stan Michalopoulos

Illawarra Parrot Club president Stan Michalopoulos overcame his childhood fear and now has hundreds of birds. Photo: Keeli Royle.

Illawarra Parrot Club is preparing for thousands of bird-lovers flocking to Berkeley for its annual expo but the impact of the group isn’t limited to a one-day event, with education and animal welfare at the heart of the not-for-profit organisation all year round.

Club president Stan Michalopoulos owns hundreds of birds and even runs his own pet shop, but he had to overcome a fear to find his passion.

“Honestly, one of my fears as a child was wings, so I used to actually be scared of birds funnily enough,” Stan said.

“But my first bird was a macaw and after that I just fell in love with them.

“I started off with that one and then purchased our second bird and then built our first 20-metre enclosure and then before I knew it my life was just covered in birds.”

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Through the club he has connected with like-minded people and helps educate them on how to best care for the animals.

“You don’t need to have a specific bird to be part of the club,” he said. “Some people might only have one; some people like myself have over 400 parrots.

“Everyone just really has an interest of birds so we just talk about that, any problems or questions they might have … we also do harness training; we might get an avian vet to come down and talk about health and diet and things like that as well.”

The Illawarra Parrot Club has been around for a little over a decade, with members increasingly interested in better ways to source and care for the birds as attitudes around pet ownership continue to change.

“People want what’s best for the animal.” Stan said. “It’s no longer let’s just go to Woolworths and Coles and get a bag of seed; they would rather buy quality, come here or go to the club and look for things that are actually beneficial for the bird.”

But it isn’t all about their personal pets, the group also helps other organisations with similar missions and helps rehome unwanted birds and those from deceased estates.

“Supporting the club supports these birds as well so we will be able to get the care for them,” Stan said.

“We also donate to zoos and wildlife parks and things like that – helping us helps others as well.”

Although the group undertakes many tasks, the largest is their annual bird expo, with thousands of experts and enthusiasts travelling to the Illawarra to take part.

“You get breeders from all over Australia that come but you also get trades people, who may make hammocks; people who work at a nut farm and bring organic nuts in; people who make breeding boxes, a lot of toys and native ranges as well.”

The event is even known to showcase new discoveries and expand horizons on breed mutations.

“For example, before your budgies were really blue or green, now they’re rainbow and you can get all sorts of colours … you can get the same thing with parrots,” Stan said.

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“I remember when I saw my first cockatiel cross galah, so that was pretty interesting and just something you don’t see every day.”

“When you go to these events you never know what to expect and you might see something that you wouldn’t usually.”

The event has continued to grow year after year and helps to highlight the incredible work of the club.

But for Stan it’s less about attracting members and more about promoting the care and welfare of these animals to people within the community.

“I think the main thing I hope is that it can just keep on going and there’s that interest around because it’s not just about how big the club gets, it’s about educating people,” Stan said.

The Illawarra Parrot Club Bird Sale and Expo is on 23 June.

To register or to find out more about the not-for-profit visit the Illawarra Parrot Club website.

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