Tani Smida Bird Lady Extraordinaire


N estled in the oak-covered rolling hills between Morro Bay and Atascadero, California, lives our vivacious red-haired birdlady, Tani Smida. Smida has been the Central Coast Avicultural Society president for the past six years and 3 charter member since its beginning in 1986. She was also a speaker at the AF A Convention in Denver this year anc covered the topic, "Food for Thought."

Tani Smida was "hatched" anc reared in California and has been surrounded by animals her whole life Until 1981, however, most of the critters in her life were mammals. In '81 Tan inherited a pair of Double Yellow-head· ed Amazons from her mother. The Amazon pair were moved to the Central Coast and Tani decided to pur sue her mother's dream of breeding parrots. Never in her wildest dreams die she anticipate the outcome.

It didn't take her long to realize tha parrots were very special creatures anc deserved her full attention. The firs time she fed a baby Psittacine she wa: smitten and hooked thoroughly. He fate was sealed. Tani collected and triec many different species in her early day: with birds but over the years she ha:


wisely narrowed down the Genera that she works with. They include five:

Amazona, Cacatua, Ara, Psutacus and Poicepbalus. Recently she has also narrowed down the number of pairs that she keeps from more than 80 to a mere 55. Although Tani has skilled helpers, she always wants to be sure that the number of cages that need servicing never exceeds her ability to so by her-


self if need be.

As I entered the gate of Tani's hillside abode, perched on what she calls "Frog Pond Mountain," I was met by a small herd of 200 Lb.English Mastiffs, one of which took me by the sleeve very roughly and "led" me to his mistress. I wasn't sure if he would chew my arm off or if he was playing and it took my heart at least 10 minutes to quit racing from the experience. What an amazing burglar alarm system-actually, a burglar eating system. There is also a very tall secure fence around the whole area. Chickens are allowed to run loose under the cages to feed off of what drops through the cage bottoms. The fowl also serve as an early warning system if there are any predators in the yard. Better to lose a chicken to a hungry wild animal than a parrot.

Smida has wisely divided her parrot cages into two groupings and they are a great distance apart. She calls one "South America" and the other "Africa." By keeping her continents separate, the African species aren't disturbed by the noise of the South Americans. Cockatoos are housed with the Africans however.

Separate cages dot the hillsides and are nestled here and there under the old oak trees. Amazon and African species are housed in 4 x 4 x 8 foot cages and the Senegals get cubes about half that size. Macaws are in 8 x 8 x 10 foot sized enclosures. All cages have plywood on the top and sides for pro-


tection from the elements and privacy. Tani has a misting system that gives the birds a daily bath and fills up water bowls as well. All cages are supported by pressure treated 4 X 4s that are fastened in a way that the birds can't get at them.

Wooden nest boxes are Tani's choice for her pairs as she says they don't get as hot and as cold as the metal kind. Wooden boxes are also more available than metal nowadays too. She says she has never lost a baby to heat but has lost them to cold made worse by a metal box.

The frosting on the cake (that adds to the "wildness" of the landscape her parrots are lucky to live in) are f1owers planted everywhere. She has planted wildf1owers, bulbs, perennials, and annuals with good planning so she has bloom all year long. An incredible cactus garden interspersed with assorted mementos, rings one side of the house and leads around to a trail of stepping stones made from old bird crocks. This is a great idea too. Tani takes all her fragments of colorful ceramic broken bird crocks and sets them into wet cement to form an abstract mosaic design stepping stone-e-very beautiful and a good way to recycle. Since l saw this at her house some years ago I started saving all my old broken crocks, but for lack of time all I have to show is a pile of broken crocks that wait patiently to be set in cement and transformed into works of an.