A Business Literally For The Birds
Rosie the green-winged macaw twitches her neck from side to side and says hello. Adults and children alike stop in their tracks, mesmerized by her animated motions and long, bright-red tail feathers.
Bruce McGonigal’s face lights up when he talks about his birds. With his company, The Bird Guy, he shares his knowledge with others about birds at schools, libraries and parties.
“Birds are my life,” says McGonigal, who has more than 100 tropical birds including macaws, African greys, Alexandrine parrots and cock-atoos.
People can hire The Bird Guy for an hour, a day or a week to bring several of his feathered friends to an event. Photos can be handled in several different ways. A professional videographer and photographer, McGonigal is flexible and says he doesn’t mind if customers want to use their own digital cameras. He can take a photo for them using their camera, or he can use his own.
When the Navy veteran is hired for school events, he demonstrates bird basics, which include a display of the types of birds, various perches, different cages and how to tell which is a male or female. He also breeds the winged creatures.
McGonigal says he always had pets as a child while living on the Mainland, including fish, gerbils, alligators and raccoons, and his grandfather had a parakeet that went along on family vacations. But that wasn’t his inspiration for the business. He worked with Rich Miano Sr., father of UH football assistant coach Rich Miano, taking photos of people with birds in Waikiki. McGonigal says he struck out on his own soon after with a spot at Koko Marina next to a water sports activity shop. He notes his approach is a soft sell, not an aggressive style.
“There’s many a refrigerator magnet out there that has a photo I took of people with my birds as a souvenir of their trip to Hawaii,” he says proudly. “Some people tell me it was the highlight of their trip.”
He also was based near Hilo Hattie for about a year, and then at Aloha Tower from 2002 to 2006.
“People came back every year to have their photos with the birds,” he recalls. “One woman from Australia even took her photo at Hilo Hattie and then managed to track me down at Aloha Tower. She was looking for me, and she found me.”
McGonigal says right now he is again looking for a place to be based.
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