If you see a guy riding a bike on the Beltline with a parrot on his shoulder, it’s probably Denis Lemay. The

West Midtown resident and his partner, Daniel Slack, have four parrots in all, making for an often noisy but always entertaining household.

The love for birds started early for Lemay, 48, who had parakeets when he was younger before the interest exploded after a move to Key West. While in Florida, he and a former partner acquired 125 birds and had an outdoor aviary. They sold most of them off before Lemay moved to Atlanta with a Nanday Conure named Buster and met Slack, 51, and the two started buying parrots together.

“But four is the limit,” Lemay says laughing.

Big Buster

Big Buster takes a break in Piedmont Park (courtesy photo)

They started with Chelsea, a hybrid between a Nanday and a Sun Conure, which they’ve had for about 18 years. Next came Dusty, a Moluccan Cockatoo, and finally there was a blue-fronted Amazon named, again, Buster. So there’s Little Buster and Big Buster; Big Buster is the one you’ll see bopping along on Lemay’s shoulder on the Beltline.

If there’s one thing you should know about buying certain types of parrots, it’s to settle in for a long haul, especially if you’re buying a big one. Blue-fronted Amazons live to be about 50 or 60 years old, and Moluccan Cockatoos can live 60 or 70 years. People often leave birds like these in their wills—Lemay and Slack
were told they’re the third owners of Big Buster, and he’s been flying high from perch to perch since the early ’70s.

Affectionate and playful birds like these choose favorites, attaching themselves to one person in particular.
Dusty prefers Slack, while Big Buster prefers Lemay.

But the companionship and entertainment factors are high as long as they get frequent interaction. There is also another perk for all the gentlemen out there.

“Sometimes it can be a man magnet,” says Lemay, laughing. “Overall, they’re just great pets.”

This story is part of our Pets Issue, on newsstands and online now.

psaunders@thegavoice.com | @patricksaunders

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