Birds make wonderful companions for people of all ages. Even without a gilded cage or the ability to speak -- as some bird species can -- a bird often brings more response from an owner than a dog or cat will.
A dog will bark and a cat meow and its owner may not answer, but let a pet bird make one tweet and its owner will invariably say, "hi baby."
Roger Walker of Rosedale talks to his birds. And he can't remember not wanting one.
''I was one of eight children of a tobacco farmer in Southern Maryland and I can remember when I was very young wanting a bird or a bantam chicken so badly," he says. "My mother thought I was an unusual child.''
At age 20 he came to Baltimore and ''got a job at the American Smelting and Refining Corporation and stayed there until it closed in 1976 and I retired.
''From the day I came to Baltimore I began raising birds,'' says the 76-year-old, who raises doves and finches.
''I have finches from Australia and others. All are beautiful colors of green, blue or yellow. I also have about 10 species of doves, such as the bleeding heart dove, which is slate color with a red spot in the middle of its white chest. [It] comes from the Philippines. And I have a crested, plumed, bronze-wing and masked dove. All are basically slate or gray with different markings, as their name implies. I have a Diamond dove from Australia no bigger than a parakeet and an equally tiny zebra dove which, if you traveled to the island of Hawaii, you'd find were so plentiful they [are] almost a nuisance. I believe they were originally transplanted there from the Malay Peninsula,'' he says.
Doves and pigeons are in the same family of birds. Those with long tails are doves, the short tails pigeons. There are some 300 species and information about them and other species can be found in bird books available at the local library.
Mr. Walker is looking forward to ''just poking around'' at the Bird Mart this Saturday, he says.
From 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. the Baltimore Bird Fanciers, of which Mr. Walker is a 25-year member, and the Maryland Cage Bird Society, the two oldest and largest bird clubs in the area, are holding a second annual Bird Mart.
Vendors with a variety of bird-related items, local breeders with birds for sale, a raffle, door prize and refreshments will be available at the Earleigh Heights Fire Hall on Ritchie Highway in Anne Arundel County. Admission is $2; free for children under 12.
''I don't sell birds," Mr. Walker says, "just swap and trade with other members.
The president of the Baltimore Bird Fanciers, Bonnie Cash of Edgewood, says there are about 67 members in the 52-year-old club.
She and her husband Walt have been raising birds for 10 years. Among many parakeets, they have Australian Grass parakeets, which are mainly green with yellow breasts and vivid yellow, turquoise and blue going down the wings.
''The Mart is for fun and to educate bird owners and prospective bird owners'' says Mrs. Cash. ''For instance, we want to stress that birds love food and not just seeds.
''We feed our birds and the wild birds around our house . . . cooked rice, fruit, green beans, lima beans, corn, broccoli, carrots and much more,'' she says.
Laura Michel of Bel Air, president of the Maryland Cage Bird Society, which has about 35 members, says that the Bird Mart will hopefully attract people who ''would enjoy owning birds" and becoming bird club members. Ms. Michel raises cockatiels and budgies.
The budgerigar, called budgie, is the most popular of what many call the parakeet. It is found in warm regions from India to Australia. There are about 115 species.
Mrs. Cash and Ms. Michel will be glad to discuss the Bird Mart with those interested as well as offer information about other local bird clubs, which include one for budgies, canaries and for exhibitors only. Call Mrs. Cash at (410) 538-5869 or Ms. Michel (410) 879-7843.