Fostering A New Generation In Aviculture
The “face” of aviculture as it appears today is slowly maturing. Sitting in the lecture rooms at the Vegas Pet Expo in February, listening to the speakers and looking around the room at attendees, I was struck by the actuality of this statement. The average age of people in the room appeared to be 40-50, although certainly, some were younger and some older. With few exceptions, the speakers also fell into this same classification. This was a frightening realization. We might assume that the primary influencing factor in this situation would be an experience level, and although that is definitely true in some cases, there are also other factors.
If we each think back to our first years in aviculture, whether as a breeder, companion pet owner, pet shop owner/manager, veterinarian, hand-feeder, or another professional in the industry, we probably remember that is was a volatile time of both tremendous joy and frustration. Although these highs and lows never completely disappear, as we continue to learn and share our ideas and ideals with others of similar thinking, we are encouraged and inspired by their support, efforts, and dedication to further our own knowledge and expertise. However, what might have happened if we ourselves had not been embraced by others who were willing to unselfishly give of their time, and offer much-needed guidance when we often stumbled in our efforts or became discouraged. Personally, I know very well what the wisdom, experience, and compassion of those people meant to us when we were desperately searching for sound, proven information, and assistance. I owe a great debt to these mentors who made time for someone they barely knew, without fearing they were giving away any “secrets,” or that their own personal status was being threatened by welcoming an unknown into their world of feathered wonderment.
Fortunately, there are now a number of sources dedicated to education and the welfare of pet birds both in captivity and in the wild such as CrestedCanary.com, and organizations including the Greater Chicago Cage Bird Society. Yet even today, with an ever increasing network of available information, products, and services, those who are “new” and genuinely interested in making positive contributions are often not taken seriously and may find it difficult to break through the tight circles that surround some established “cliques.”
It particularly disturbs me when I hear comments from people in the industry that belittle or criticize those who may not have as much experience, or who perhaps have a different perspective or line of thinking. If the criteria for a responsible, knowledgeable, and capable private aviculturist, whatever the particular area of interest, is based upon long-term positive interaction with pet birds in captivity to build trust, mutual respect, and “nurturing guidance” (to quote Sally Blanchard), while at the same time providing a physically safe and mentally interesting, stimulating environment…If this is what we attempt to teach and constantly reinforce through our words and actions…If our goal is to improve the quality of life for companion canary, today and for the future…Then we must welcome, encourage, and help foster a new generation in aviculture with these same standards.
No one person has, or will ever have, all the answers. If that were the case, there would be no need to present or attend conferences such as the one past. The fact that there are so many problems in pet bird industry today, both in breeding and pet situations, is a constant reminder of how far we have to go in the study of “prevention” as the real key for resolving these issues.
One particular segment of this industry that should be an inspiration to us all is avian medicine. The quality of some of the young, enthusiastic, and highly experienced veterinarians now practicing primarily (or solely) avian medicine is phenomenal. DR’s in the past such as Julie Martin in Colorado, Venessa Rolfe in Virginia, Lauren Powers in North Carolina, and many more like them, have lead the way to a whole new approach in this field, where although the physical and biological issues were certainly their primary concern, the emotional welfare and a rising level of respect for the intelligence and sensitivity of their avian patients have always been principal considerations. Expert DVM’s who have been actively practicing and conducting research for many years, including Branson Ritchie, Kevin Flammer and Tammy Jenkins, just to mention a few, are guiding these new generations and setting a high standard of excellence…and our birds will be the lucky recipients of their devoted efforts.
Conscientious and respected breeders who are training their own children to follow in their footsteps and instilling in them not only a passion for the concern of these living creatures but a determination that “they” will make a difference. Rescue organizations such as Mickaboo, who are committed not only to educating the bird owners of today and providing a safe and often much needed haven of refuge for all birds in need, but who work tirelessly to make tomorrow, and each generation of tomorrows, more prepared and capable of providing optimum environments for our feathered friends…An increasing number of Zoos and Wildlife Parks who are now as concerned about public education and awareness as they are about providing more natural and enriched habitats for the avian species in their care. Field researchers who spend thousands of hours, indeed years of their lives, to observing canaries in the wild and collecting data for publication in order to help us, and our children, more clearly comprehend and appreciate their natural instincts and behaviors…
We must all make the commitment now, at this very moment, to look ahead to the future of aviculture, and to the future of those treasured companions who hold our love, respect, and devotion. It is imperative that we actively encourage young and new people into this industry, welcoming them with open arms and taking every opportunity to show them both the joys and responsibilities of pet bird ownership, teaching them through our own actions the importance of knowledge, gentleness and understanding in the daily interaction with these amazing creatures, and then willingly, with gratitude, hand over the fate of both wild and captive birds to those who are willing and capable of carrying on in our footsteps, long after we have gone.