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Online retailer designs toys for pet birds

ROGUE RIVER — You have to overlook a bird dropping or two when you visit Bonnie Jay.

The co-founder of StarBird Parrot — and developer of the Get a Grip exercising, foraging, cargo and canopy net — figures parrots should be free to fly about the house.

"Birds get stuck in cages all day then come out for 45 minutes then go back in," Jay said. "Parrots are incredibly intelligent, and putting a creature that smart in a cage all day is egregious."

In 2011, StarBird produced online and bird show sales of $100,000, but after a falling out with her business partner two years ago, she relocated to Southern Oregon from Santa Monica, Calif.

Aside from the Get a Grip net she developed 10 years ago, Jay has created and collected a range of exercise and play toys for birds, enhancing their cage and play times. Their products have also been adapted for zoo and aquarium populations.

Get a Grip, made from fibrous abacá plants, emulates a tree canopy for birds and comes in four sizes for diverse environments. 

It can be adapted to fit in any space, and can be reconfigured and accessorized, she said. 

"Abacá is related to banana trees, and its fibers are used in sailing ships because of their durability and resistance to mold and mildew," she said. "Birds love to chew on fiber."

Jay developed an affinity for parrots early on and later became a photographer for Bird Talk magazine of Irvine, Calif.

"As I got older, I saw the plight of so many birds, some thrown against walls, some burned with cigarettes and some stuck in closets," Jay said. "I'm not an animal-rights person, I'm an animal-welfare person and care how they are treated."

Her response was to spend time with birds and begin developing a series of toys, mostly made from wood products.

"At the time I started," she said, "there weren't that many bird-toy companies."

The company's website is www.estarbird.com

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or business@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GregMTBusiness, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/greg.stiles.31, and read his blog at www.mailtribune.com/Economic Edge.

Bonnie Jay has two parrots in her Rogue River home, Chiahna Star and Mattie Moonbeam. Mail Tribune / Bob Pennell
Bonnie Jay's parrot Mattie Moonbeam plays with one of the parrot toys Jay offers for sale on her website. - Mail Tribune / Bob Pennell