Finding a roost on Martha’s Vineyard

Brazilian Islanders cultivate cockatiels and other avian pets on the Island.

Luiz Carlos Dos Santos Oliveira (Calica) holds one of his daughter's birds, a blue quaker. — Mirella Barbosa

Henry David Thoreau once wrote, “It often happens that a man is more humanely related to a cat or dog than to any human being.” For Brazilian Islanders, those deep connections are more apt to be found in cockatiels, lovebirds, parrots and other bird species.

Birds are considered an important part of Brazilian culture, and Brazilians so appreciate birds that artists and poets frequently feature them in their works.

Due to the climate in Brazil, some Brazilians leave dogs and cats outside; they report being shocked to come to the United States and find — no matter the weather — dogs of all breeds and sizes inside homes, on beds and couches. When Brazilian parents, especially those who live in rented homes, get asked by their kids for dogs, they are quick to say, “Why not a bird?” “My son Caio always had lovebirds or a cockatiel,” Carla Guimaraes told the Times. “I almost thought he didn’t appreciate them as much anymore, until recently one of the birds we had died. Caio was heartbroken, and now I am preparing to brace myself for the almost inevitable step: a dog.”

“My relationship with my bird, Tchuca, is out of this world,” said Erlania Cossuol. “He is my baby. When I am home, he is always on my shoulder. Sometimes I have to put him inside his cage to prevent him from jumping on top of my head as I shower. When I am not home, I leave the iPad on with bird videos for him to watch, and he always sleeps with me.”

Some Brazilian Islanders have had birds in their homes their entire lives. As Genaci Luciano De Oliveira said, “I have had this hobby since I lived in Governador Valadares, Minas, Brazil. Perhaps a lot of Brazilians have an affinity for birds because life can be complicated for some of us on the Island, and it gives us something to occupy our minds, a hobby.

“They can be expensive because of the vitamins and fruits [they need],” Genaci said, “and you have to have housing that will accommodate them, but I enjoy it, and one of my birds has even won a tournament in New Bedford for his singing.”

Luiz Carlos Dos Santos Oliveira, or Calica as he is known, has a home in West Tisbury that hosts various animals and birds. His passion for birds is so intense that it transferred it to his wife, Shelyn Garcia, who now takes care of all the things pertaining to the well-being of the animals in their house. The couple has close to 25 birds in their home — two African gray parrots, a Spanish Timbrado canary, and two rose-breasted cockatoos. “If I had to name a bird I would like to have, it would be the azulão,” Calica said. “The name azulão is a reference to his blue feathers. This bird is seen all over Brazil, even in bordering countries like Bolivia, Paraguay, and Argentina, but it is not a bird allowed to be brought to the U.S., and for that reason it remains just a desire.” Calica’s passion runs deep: In the more than 19 years he has lived in the U.S., he has brought around 200 saffron finches from Brazil to sell here. “When you export these birds, they are [first] quarantined in either Florida or New York. The price varies in quantity and species,” said Calica.

When friends visit Flavia Cardoso’s home, they are welcomed by four cockatiels, who fight for space and pet rights in the home with a newly acquired puppy. “They bring so much sweetness to our home,” Flavia said. “Even after we brought home the puppy, the family couldn’t be without the birds flying around.”