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Avian club members are devoted to all feathered creatures

The Lakewood Ranch Avian Club and Cindy Gordon, its founder and president, come together over their love of birds — no matter where they find them.

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  • | 5:00 a.m. May 17, 2023
When Cindy Gordon started the Lakewood Ranch Avian Club, its initial focus was on pet parrots.
When Cindy Gordon started the Lakewood Ranch Avian Club, its initial focus was on pet parrots.
Photo by Nancy Guth
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For 13 years, bird enthusiast Cindy Gordon and her husband, Kerry, have shared their Country Club home with a parrot named Chewy. Their feathered family member has the run of the place — sometimes at a cost to the homeowners. “Chewy loves to chew,” Cindy Gordon says. “One time, we left a drawer open because she loves to explore in crevices. Believe it or not, we went to retrieve some cash that was in there and she had made a green nest.”

Gordon reckons that Chewy had depleted the couple’s cash stash by about a hundred bucks. Then there were the times, when Gordon was still working, that she’d be leading a conference call with about 20 people and Chewy would fly over to the phone and hang it up with her foot. “It would drop everyone from the call,” Gordon says. “If I’m not paying attention to her, she’ll do something to get it.”

Gordon — the founder and president of the Lakewood Ranch Avian Club — tells these stories with matter-of-fact amusement. Avian hijinks are simply part of having a 14-inch blue-crowned conure as a housemate. She has another pet, Sophie, a large blue-and-gold macaw that lives in an aviary that Gordon and a friend built behind his Bradenton home. 

The Maryland transplant started the Avian Club in 2013. “I saw a bridge club, a mahjong club, an art club, a photography club — why not a bird club?” Gordon recalls. She was already volunteering with a parrot sanctuary and was a board member of the Florida West Coast Avian Society, a nonprofit that saves, rehabs and finds homes for unwanted, abused or abandoned parrots.

The Lakewood Ranch Avian Club’s initial focus was on pet parrots. Such an emphasis quickly proved too narrow, though, and Gordon suspended the organization after about a year. That changed in 2021 when she met Fran Meyerson, an ardent lover of wild birds. Both were caring for abandoned lovebirds, and after connecting through a mutual friend, the two decided to pair them in Meyerson’s Edgewater home for what they call “a match made in heaven.”

Cindy Gordon (right) says that Fran Meyerson is an expert birder. “Some birders like to keep things very secretive, but she is very willing to share and teach.”
Photo by Nancy Guth

The women made a terrific match, too. “Cindy and I adored each other from the start,” Meyerson effuses. “What she does with parrots is phenomenal.” 

Gordon, who wanted to learn more about wild birds, found the perfect resource in her new friend. The twosome decided to combine their interests and reactivate the Lakewood Ranch Avian Club, which, Gordon estimates, has about 35 members. “I would say that 20 or 25 of them are interested in [outdoor] birding and 10 to 15 own parrots, and are interested in parrots,” she adds.

The Avian Club holds birding excursions — usually one a month — that Meyerson plans and leads. As many as 20 people lace up their hiking shoes, grab their binoculars and venture out to local havens like Celery Fields, Summerfield Park and Pinecraft Park. With some luck, they’ll spot hard-to-find painted buntings or swallow-tailed kites or roseate spoonbills or scarlet tanagers. 

“Fran is an expert birder,” Gordon says. “Some birders like to keep things very secretive, but she is very willing to share and teach.”

Additionally, Avian Club members bring “spokes-parrots” to assisted living facilities for residents to enjoy. They head out to the Lakewood Ranch Farmers’ Market and hold the colorful birds on their arms. “We’ll go pretty much anywhere we’re invited,” Gordon says. “We’d stand in front of a Publix if they’d let us.”

People flock to the charismatic creatures. “A lot of them have never seen an exotic bird up close before,” Gordon says.

The club is holding a paint-your-pet event at Lakewood Ranch Town Hall on June 10. Residents of all ages can bring along a photo, and an artist will help them paint a picture of their bird. (Check the club’s website for more details.)

One thing the Avian Club does not do, Gordon stresses, is rescue wild birds. 

She continues her own rescue work with the Florida West Coast Avian Society, for which she serves as president.

Gordon’s empathy for birds dates to her childhood outside Baltimore, where her mother took in unwanted parakeets. “Back in the ’60s and ’70s, people bought them at a five-and-dime for 50 cents apiece, and when they lost interest, they’d throw them out the door,” Gordon recalls, a hint of anger in her voice. “The bird would only survive for a day, when in reality they could live for 15 or 20 years.”

Gordon joined her mother’s bird-saving enterprise at age 5 or 6 and stayed active until leaving to attend University of Maryland. Mother and daughter worked hard to find homes for the rescued parakeets, but usually had four — and as many as 10 — living in their home. 

“I was just amazed at how intelligent they were,” Gordon recalls. “They were such lively creatures. It bothered me that they were considered throwaway pets.”

Several decades later, Cindy Gordon’s devotion to all things avian has not waned in the slightest. Along with her up-close relationships with birds, she also has larger environmental concerns. “As the area grows more, I want people to be aware that there are less and less habitats for both year-round resident birds and migratory birds,” she says. “There was a lake — and now it’s a housing development. Truth is, we’re not good stewards of our wild bird population.”

And that includes helping Chewy expand her vocabulary. “If you ask her who she is,” Gordon says, “she’ll say, ‘I am a pretty girl.’”

For more information about the Lakewood Ranch Avian Club, visit, call 941-536-0502, or email [email protected].


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