Holding A Bird Show

There are many different public events a club can sponsor. They can range from holding seminars, to sales, swaps, auctions, expos and bird shows. When I did the Long Island Parrot Society club’s annual bird show it involved exhibiting and judging of birds as well as many other activities. Each club should consider the time, people, cost and desires of its members in determining the right type of event for them.Running a bird show is a huge undertaking. You must have a following of many dedicated members of your club, including up to 5 Show Managers. The more people involved, the less work for each person. Be prepared for this endeavor to take up an enormous part of your time. It is a year round project.

Setting a Date

One of your first considerations is setting a date. This isn’t as easy as it sounds. First you must make sure that your date doesn’t clash with the date of another event within driving distance. You don’t want to make an error and have your show on the same day as the Great American Bird Show. Who would show up?

Many clubs have their events on set weekends, such as the third week of each September. Another club within driving distance might have theirs the 1st week of the same month. Make a list of the clubs in your general area. Call them up to a year in advance and ask when they are hosting their show so you don’t have conflicting schedules. Follow the bird events in your area and talk to other people. You will learn about pet expos and shows which are sponsored by other organizations. Call them as well.

Serious exhibitors follow shows around the country to tally up points to hopefully receive a championship for their bird. If you are holding a show, you want to find a free date to attract them.

Finding a Place

Once you have a tentative date, then you have to find an available hall. Is it big enough? What is the cost? Our last show hall cost $2800. It had a restaurant, a separate bird sale room, a gym for the vendors and another floor for the exhibitors. It’s also a plus if there’s a host room to provide volunteers & vendors with a snack and time out area. If a vendor travels 3-4 hours to vend at your show, it’s only right to offer a cold soda, coffee and refreshments, such as chips, bagels or doughnuts.


Once you have located the hall and set the date, then you must obtain a judge. We used judges from the Society of Parrot Breeders and Exhibitors. There are only a handful of qualified judges available and their schedules are booked well in advance. It is advisable to book up to two years in advance. An SPBE judge is qualified to judge all hookbills, including cockatiels and lovebirds, but if you have a big enough following, you might wish to book a judge from the National Cockatiel Society and/or the African Lovebird Society. If you are just starting out with a show, an SPBE judge is sufficient. They are qualified to judge all entries.

Judging 50 birds can take up to 6 hours. Most shows are one day events and by the end of the day, you and the judge are tired. If there are many birds anticipated, you may want to obtain the NCS and the ALBS judges.

Then you need to consider cost. There’s airfare, lodging and transporting the judges from the airport (It’s real fun when they arrive at separate times). To avoid one judge waiting for 3 hours, it’s advisable to arrange three different rides. Some judges know each other and may not mind sharing a room, but be prepared to rent three different rooms. Some club members might have a guest room and may wish to save some funds by letting the judge sleep over, but this arrangement must be okayed by the judge. Would you want to travel 6 hours just to be stuck on a couch with three screaming kids in the next room and 10 screeching birds?

Then you must make arrangements for the judges to eat meals for two days, since they usually arrive the night prior to the show, and spend the night after the show resting before returning home. So be prepared to pay lodging costs for two nights. You must also pay for their air fare, and the costs to get them to and from their home airports before they arrive at your location. Another consideration is inspecting the motel room before you place the reservation. Is it clean? Make sure it is paid for. Many judges have arrived, only to have to pay their own way and hunt down reimbursement afterward.

SPBE has a contract in which all of this is discussed beforehand. I used to make up a welcome basket. I’d put in juice, crackers, a pen and a pad. A club T-shirt is a fond remembrance. My husband and I used to hand make wooden plaques for each judge, calling each one in advance to find out what his/her favorite bird was, thus making that particular sign. For Dr. Al, we made a beautiful, hand carved SPBE logo and presented it to him after the show.

Also you must make sure the judge has a list of several numbers, including beeper and cell phone numbers. Numbers to several members is helpful, since one person might be unavailable. It doesn’t do any good if you’re at the show hall setting up, on a Friday night and the judge is calling you at home, because he’s stuck at the airport.

Another consideration is meals. A lot of motels don’t have a restaurant attached. You have picked out a great room, but the judge will starve. That’s why there should be refreshments in the welcome basket. Then since the judge is miles from nowhere, without a car, someone must make sure that he is hosted and taken to dinner. Financial arrangements must also be made so that the host doesn’t get stuck with a bill for 4 people. It’s courtesy for the host club to pay for the dinner of the host. Remember now the judge will need meals and host service for two days. Some judges will drive to a local show, then you only have to worry about gas and toll charges.

When you hire the judge, ask about his fee. An average is $150 a day. Remember most judges have a regular job, and though they enjoy judging, it’s still a days work. They’re away from their family and birds for a few days. I also made sure that I had a sign with the judge’s name made up, so that as he’s judging the audience knows who he is.

Judging the Birds

Having a properly built show bench is a necessity. They must be at the proper height to view the birds. The bench must be sturdy and long enough to hold all cages. You don’t want to put several 10 LB cages on a flimsy card table. My husband Dennis, used to build the show benches from pine. We even stained them. He also used to hang vita lites above the birds. This is important to properly view the birds. You must also make sure there is electricity available and the lights need to be hanging above the birds, so you have to make sure that there is a place to hang the lights from.

Some judges like to judge a show straight through. Some take a lunch break. Discuss this with each individual. Be prepared to have the judge’s favorite beverage available at a table, close by. You try talking for 6 hours and see if you don’t get thirsty. Also set up an account at the restaurant in the show hall for the judges and let the judges know that the account is set up. It doesn’t do any good to open the account with the staff, if the judge ends up paying for his own meal. A lot of this is overlooked and isn’t meant to be rude, but can be taken as such.

You also need stewards to set up the cages according to species. It would be good if a steward had a general idea of what each bird species is. You also need someone to place ribbons on each cage as the judging proceeds. This has to be someone who is quick and observant. Some judges offer a full explanation as to why each bird is placed in a certain position and some just place birds, mumbling a few words.

I love listening to Dr. Al Decoteau, chairman of the SPBE, since he’ll explain that even though two birds are equal, one might have the slightest pin feather out of place. A bird might be clipped, but Dr. Al wasn’t aware until the bird lifted his wings. Not to say that judging an unclipped bird is against the bird, but if there are two identical birds, then the unclipped bird might win over the clipped bird. I have seen a bird placed that was missing a toe, but won over another bird because of better feathering.


You also must place the order for your ribbons months in advance. Your club names must be imprinted on each, and you must decide how many 1st, 2nd or 3rd place ribbons you need. How many rosettes are needed? SPBE has specific categories. You must order for all divisions, which could include amazons, greys, parrolets and lories. There are sections within divisions. You might not have an entry in each category, thus having excess ribbons. For the next year, you will have to take inventory as to not over order.

Then you must make sure that the rosettes are available for the top 10 placed on the bench. We found that tacking the ribbons on a 4 x 8 sheet of styrofoam, was the easiest way for the ribbons to be accessible to those placing the ribbon on the winning birds’ cage.

After the Show

It is customary to host a post show dinner where all volunteers, vendors, guest speakers and vets summarize the days events. For those that volunteered, there was no cost to the individual. For spectators and vendors, a nominal fee of $10-$15 was charged for the catered meal. It was impossible to go out for a meal because you had to consider the fact that the birds were with you. Then before you eat, you have to dismantle the benches and pack up the supplies before dinner. This could and has caused hard feelings, because some want to eat immediately after the show, while others are packing up boxes, cleaning up, and loading up vehicles, and still others are sitting around with their feet up. You have to agree before hand that no one eats until everything is cleaned up. If everyone lends a hand, clean up is done in no time, then everyone gets to enjoy a good meal after a successful show together.

In future articles we will cover some of the other aspects of shows, expos and other events.

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