Cruising down Sheldon Road in Tampa, you’d never know, while stuck at the red light, that 200 exotic parrots were hiding just behind the tree line.
“We don’t want to cage them up. We don’t want to sell them,” said Magic Esmaeili. “We don’t want to breed them. There are too many parrots that need homes.”
Magic’s Zaksee Bird Rescue sanctuary looks and sounds like a jungle in the middle of the city. Brightly colored birds fly freely in large enclosures and are cared for by Magic himself.
“They are my life. They live better than me,” he said with a chuckle. “Their house is bigger than me and they eat better than me.”
Most of the birds come to Magic from around the country because the owners can’t take care of them any longer. Many birds had to leave their previous homes because of biting problems.
Magic has found that the appropriate amount of individual attention makes all the difference with his exotic friends.
“They love you unconditionally,” he said while feeding crackers to a scarlet Macaw named Ruby.
Zaksee volunteer Carolyn Barnes started spending time with the birds after a customer at the pet shop where she works donated a large amount of bird food. She couldn’t find a place to send it so she started researching parrots and eventually stumbled onto Magic’s five-acre sanctuary.
“These little guys need all the help we can give them,” she said with a smile. “I’ve never seen any place like this.”
Magic estimates he’s spent over $200,000 on Zaksees. He has dozens of bird breeds including macaws, cockatoos, amazons and parakeets.
He’s named them all and has a special bond with each bird.
“He has a heart of gold. He loves these birds like no one I’ve ever met in my life,” said Barnes.
All Magic wants is to give the birds a chance to live a happy life.
“It is like when you try to help hungry people,” he explained. “No matter how many people you feed you cannot feed the world but anything you do is better than nothing.”
Magic was born in Iran and moved to the United States in 1987. He’s visited 45 countries and traveled to all 50 states in the U.S.
Zaksee is open to the public for guided tours.