Parrots from iconic Lahaina Bird Stand survive Maui wildfires

Owners hope to continue business as they search for new location 
Parrots from Iconic Lahaina Bird Stand survive Maui Wildfires
Published: Aug. 29, 2023 at 10:58 PM PDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

LAS VEGAS, Nev. (FOX5) - A group of a dozen colorful squawking parrots brought smiles and laughs to thousands of visitors on Lahaina’s famous Front Street corridor. For the last 40 years, Barrie Matthews and David Vanzo dressed tourists in birds and plastic flower leis to take photos. The photos are keepsakes of a family’s Maui vacation. For many, one of the lasting memories of Lahaina.

“It started in ‘85, just me and one bird walking the beaches, taking pictures of tourists on the beach, making post cards to send home to family and friends,” said Matthews. Vanzo joined a year later. The couple said they built into fun business and got the offer to come to the Pioneer Inn in 2000.

“It started with one bird who was a rescue, this was a way to keep them busy because they need a lot of attention, a lot of care,” said Vanzo. The couple said they encountered more people who simply could not provide the attention to the birds. “Just like any other union animal, these guys work a morning shift and an afternoon shift, splitting it so there were some in the morning, some in the afternoon for three, not more than four hours a day,” said Vanzo.

The Front Street corridor in Lahaina saw thousands of visitors each day. Many stopping to say hello to the birds perched high on their posts, eager to say hello back. “Those people, the first thing they say when they walk up is, ‘This is my favorite thing, this is what I remember, this is why we’re back again,’ Some of them have done it every year, for that many years,” said Vanzo. “It’s something that people have heard about, known about, experienced, it’s a great feeling,” said Matthews, who added they have never had to advertise.

Like so many others living in Lahaina, the August wildfires took away the livelihoods of Matthews and Vanzo. “Within 20 minutes, it was on us. It was a scramble. We had to load 15 birds into their carriers, into the cars, we had four dogs to transfer as well. We had a number of cats that we couldn’t take with us,” said Vanzo. “We were hoping to return, you had it in you’re heart that you were coming back,” Matthews added.

A family friend took in the couple and temporarily housed the birds. A veterinarian called Matthews and Vanzo shortly after the fire and offered to take in the animals while they search for permanent housing. As for the business, “It should continue, we need it to continue,” said Vanzo. A timeframe and location are up in the air for the couple.

A GoFundMe page is set up for the couple here.