Why Sydney’s ‘bird man’ has to share his morning latte

By Bella Ann Sanchez

I clearly remember the first time I spotted Tony Mina and his pet parrots dining at a café in Concord.

It was about two years ago, on a routine morning coffee run. I was hastily walking towards my car when I noticed something strange across the road. A man sitting in a café casually enjoying a latte with an Eclectus parrot seated at the table with him — also drinking a coffee, like two old mates in the morning sun.

I doubled back for a second look to make sure my eyes weren’t playing tricks on me. Some people were staring at them, some were smiling, but most people just sat at the tables around him having breakfast, completely unfazed by Tony and his pet.

It turns out that Tony, a business owner and ‘father’ to several pets, is known in the local community of Concord and frequently visits cafés with his pet parrots named Sparky and Quacker.

“Obviously, I love animals, I’d prefer to be with them than people to be honest with you,” Tony tells me when we finally meet for a coffee on a bright summer morning in Sydney’s inner west. “They don’t worry about anything, the economy or the Australian dollar … it sort of rubs off on you.”

Sparky is the oldest of the two, a beautiful 7-year-old Macaw with a scissor beak that Tony works hard to take care of.

“He can live up to 50, 60, 70, even more years,” Tony says. “I wish my relationships lasted that long.”

Quacker, the coffee-drinking Eclectus, is just 18 months old and is still learning not to bite his owner.

“He likes a coffee, a cigarette, and a party,” Tony jokingly tells me after I see Quacker take another sip of his latte. One of the most striking things about Quacker is the fact he likes coffee. Tony informs me that the coffee is good for him, provided it’s not roasted.

The two birds also know how to wave, kiss, speak a few words and even take a shower with Tony in the morning. Just don’t expect to see Tony with company.

“If my wife sees me at a café with the birds, she runs away — she’s embarrassed,” he says. “If you have them with a partner, they won’t be as loyal to you.”

The quirky ‘family’ go on all kinds of adventures but what Tony enjoys most about his pets is taking them out into the community.

“I see the joy in the kids’ faces and I try to make time for everyone.”

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