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MONMOUTH STREET STORE IS FOR THE BIRDS

dscf2159110209Live inventory at the new Exotic Birds of Red Bank store. (Photos by Dustin Racioppi)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Getting a simple “hello” when you walk in the door and a “thank you” when you leave a business is nothing out of the ordinary. Getting about 20 of them is.

But not at 8 Monmouth Street, where Mark Delaney runs Exotic Birds of Red Bank with his lot of polite yet loquacious parrots.

After spending five years in Middletown operating under the Exotic Birds of Red Bank name, Delaney has just arrived in Red Bank proper. He opened up shop two weeks ago and says it was a long time coming for him.

“I always wanted to be in downtown Red Bank, then got an opportunity to be in the center of Red Bank and I jumped on it,” Delaney, 49, said.

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It’s been a long journey.

After a brief run as a trader on Wall Street, lifelong animal lover Delaney opened his first bird shop, Exotic Birds of Pet Agree, in Montclair when he was 29. In 2004, he moved to Middletown, though he incorporated ‘Red Bank’ into name because of the store’s mailing address.

He’s brought with him his love for animals and high standards, which he says go hand in hand.

Delaney doesn’t keep more than 30 birds in the store at one time so he can give the care needed to each bird. He sells only domestic birds, and says unlike many other pet stores, he doesn’t board or clip nails or wings in the store. He’s got rules addressing who can come into the store — no pets, no unaccompanied kids, no Typhoid Marys — for the sake of the health of his stock.

He also adheres to a fairly rigorous customer-selection process. Nobody who’s looking for a bird will walk out with one the same day. There’s training and interviews to go through first.

“We actually turn down more people than we sell to here. We really care about where the birds are going to go,” Delaney said. “We really want people to know it’s a lifetime commitment when you get a bird. In some cases it might be in your will.”

That’s why Delaney wants prospective owners to practice the same care he does. As the only employee of the shop, Delaney pretty much spends all day every day with his avian friends.

“It’s a long day, but it’s a rewarding day,” he said. “I’m happy that I’m doing something that I love and I can make a living on it.”

It’s not like he’s got bad company in the store. The birds inside his shop, especially Ommi, a 15-year-old Congo African gray parrot, like to drum up conversation or sing past Top 40 hits like “Tequila.” Ommi has the vocabulary of a 5-year-old and is usually the one greeting people coming through the door or serenading them with music.

Birds sell from the low hundreds of dollars to $1,200.

It’s a lot of work and a lot of noise, but Delaney is OK with it. In fact, he thinks his birds are easier to deal with than some people.

“One of the advantages of this is you get unconditional love as long as you love them back, and I really do,” he said. “This is pretty much my life. This is what I love.”

Remember: Nothing makes a Red Bank friend happier than to hear "I saw you on Red Bank Green!"
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