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Paterson Bird Store: History and Legacy of Avian Companionship

Updated: Oct 27, 2023

Since 1907, the Paterson Bird Store has been a household name in the NYC metropolitan area. Under owner Philip Jasper and his animal-loving family since 1984, we've consistently brought joy to all walks of life through avian companionship, a cherished and long-held national tradition. We take pride in serving a customer base that contributes to the over six million American households that welcome birds into their homes and hope that number only continues to soar.

The history of bird stores and the early days of keeping birds as pets in America have roots that trace back to the 15th and 16th centuries in Europe. It was among European clergy that the practice of keeping birds as pets first emerged. Birds like falcons and doves were cherished companions and status symbols among the ecclesiastical elite.

*Owner Phil Jasper with a blue-and-gold macaw*

As Europeans explored and colonized the New World, they brought with them not only their customs but also their beloved avian companions. These early settlers introduced the concept of pet birds to America, marking the first instance of animals being exported to the New World for this purpose. The 19th and 20th centuries saw a significant surge in the popularity of birds as pets in America.

This trend transcended social classes and ethnic backgrounds, making birds a beloved household fixture. Among the most popular pet birds during this era were canaries, known for their melodious songs, and various parlor birds from Europe.

During this period, native American songbirds like the American goldfinch, cardinal, and northern mockingbird also gained popularity as pets. These birds proved to be hardy in captivity and delighted their owners with their beautiful songs. Bird trapping and hunting were common practices, which eventually led to a decline in the populations of these native species. To counter this threat, state and federal laws were enacted in the 20th century to prohibit the capture, killing, and commerce of native bird species. The prohibition of native bird capture gave rise to the importation of birds from Europe, Asia, and South America. By the 1800s, Asian finches made their way stateside while European birds such as the starling and nightingale, as well as canaries bred in Germany, became the most common household and parlor birds in America through the middle of the 20th century. As “Universal Parlor Birds,” canaries became emblematic of the domestic ideals that pioneer families strived in their pursuit of the American Dream.

*Mahogany Canary on left & Gloster Corona on right*

In the 1900s, birds from Asia, Australia, and South America became commonplace in American households. Parrots arrived on the scene, including the now-extinct Carolina Parakeet, capturing the hearts of well-to-do Americans. Budgerigars, or "budgies," also arrived on the scene in the early 1900s, charming pet enthusiasts with their vibrant colors and playful personalities.

*Handfed Parakeets "budgies"*

Early pet stores served as more than just a marketplace for feathered friends; they were essential hubs for avian enthusiasts seeking proprietary medications, customized feeding blends, and specialized medical procedures to care for their beloved birds and address avian diseases. Among the earliest diets, some of the first marketed specifically for pets included hemp and poppy seeds, insects, raw meat, and a blend of grains and eggs.

The Paterson Bird Store is a testament to the enduring legacy of avian companionship and the role of mom-and-pop shops in the evolving history of domesticated birds in America. Though the landscape of bird and pet stores has shifted over time, we remain dedicated to feathering your nest with winged pals and the necessary knowledge and tools to keep them happy and healthy.

With gratitude toward our customers, we look forward to a future where the joys of avian companionship continue to take flight, enriching six million households and counting!



Photographs taken and prepared by Ari Mendoza

Pollock, Christal G. “Companion Birds in Early America.” Journal of Avian Medicine and Surgery, vol. 27, no. 2, 2013, pp. 148–51. JSTOR, Accessed 4 Sept. 2023.

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