Casey Jr., or CJ as he is known to the locals, sipped casually from a glass of sweet tea at Napolatano’s Restaurant in Gainesville on a Wednesday night.
CJ, a blue and yellow macaw native to South America, visited the restaurant for Parrots and Pizza Night, a monthly event that connects parrot lovers and parrots.
The organization, Parrots and Pizza, works with the Open Wings Rescue and Sanctuary to bring parrots in need of new homes to the event in hopes of uniting them with those looking for a feathered friend.
The group currently meets on the first Wednesday of the month at Napolatano’s Restaurant at 6:30 p.m.
Casey Newick and Lindsay Rozboril founded Parrots and Pizza about three years ago. Newick said although it is a social event, bringing parrots in need of adoption has always been an important part of getting together.
“We wondered, how can we get some of the birds out in the public eye and seen and socialized?” Newick asked.
While some Parrots and Pizza attendees come to adopt, others bring their birds for interaction.
Although the parrots are often nervous upon arrival, they quickly settle down and enjoy the company.
Newick, who is also an officer at the Open Wings Rescue and Sanctuary, said socialization is an important part of parrot care, and this organization provides a great opportunity for it.
Ginger Nappy, co-owner of Napolatano’s Restaurant, said customers are always drawn to the group’s colorful presence. She said kids get excited to pet the birds, and group members encourage them to get up close and personal.
CJ’s owner, Bell resident Stephen Casey, has worked with other parrot rescue groups in Florida and is now volunteering with Open Wings Rescue and Sanctuary. He currently has 10 birds in his home that he either owns or fosters.
Most of the birds up for adoption have lost their homes because owners were no longer able to care for them. Sometimes, the parrots outlive their owners and find themselves without a home.
Some parrots come from abuse situations. One of the parrots Casey keeps at home was recovered from a crack house. The bird has no feathers.
“They would blow the dope right in her face,” Casey said.
Newick said this is not uncommon.
“I could tell you 100 stories like that,” she said.
Usually birds are relinquished by owners, but there are times the sanctuary will hear of situations from social workers. The adoption cost for a parrot is between $400 and $450, depending on whether the parrot comes with its cage.
After daylight savings time ends, the group will meet on the first Sunday afternoon of every month because parrots expect bedtime when the sun goes down. The location will be The Red Onion Neighborhood Grill.