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Upper Keys Reporter Interview

Below is the article written in the Friday, December 27, 2002 Upper Keys Reporter. It can also be found at

Jenifer Dermer with a few of her fine-feathered friends.


Staff Writer

If you were to ask Jenifer and Leon Dermer’s nine parrots what they want for
the holidays, they just might answer, “Polly want an aviary.”

That’s the ultimate goal of the couple who’ve dedicated the past several
years of their professional lives to caring for unwanted, neglected and
abandoned parrots.

To that end, the Dermers have opened the World Parrot Mission and Happy
Feathers Gift Shop at MM 99.1 in Key Largo.

Right now, the mission is two small areas barely large enough for its nine

But Jenifer Dermer said that her ultimate goal is to build a one-acre, two-
to three-story covered aviary that mimics the birds’ natural environment and
will allow visitors to interact with their winged companions.

Donations, of course, are gladly accepted, and 25 percent of the gift shop’s
proceeds go to funding the aviary, which Leon Dermer estimates will cost
approximately $250,000.

As for the shop itself, it features everything from crystal jewelry to the
works of local artists, with – not surprisingly – a focus on birds.

Jenifer Dermer came by her passion for parrots more than a decade ago, when
she adopted – and was adopted by – a parrot while living in Miami.

Since then, she’s used her degrees in psychology and education as an “avian
behaviorist,” helping parrots and their owners all just get along.

Parrots are “incredibly smart” birds that mate with each other and their
owners for life, Jenifer Dermer said.

When separated, the birds can go into a depression that can involve biting,
screaming, plucking out their own feathers and refusing to eat.

At the mission, she puts on shows with her parrot crew several times a day,
in which visitors can learn about the birds’ behavior and watch them perform
tricks like play basketball.

The World Parrot Mission and Happy Feathers Gift Shop is open from 10 a.m.
to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.

Bill Citara covers health, law enforcement, business and Islamorada. He can
be reached at 852-3216 or by e-mail at

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