March 1999 Magazine
Long before my husband Ken and I started Birds n Ways, we were pet owners. Over a period of seven years we had added two conures and four umbrella cockatoos to our family. We owned a book or two about birds and subscribed to a popular bird magazine, but we really knew very little about birds and none of our friends or neighbors knew anything about them either. We wanted very much to find others who shared our interests and who could teach us more about caring for our pets, but didn't know how to find them.
Then one day, during a visit to our vet, we met someone who suggested we join a bird club. That seemed like a good idea, but first we had to find out if there was one in our area. And so the hunt began. Our vet knew of one in the southern part of the state, but that was too far away. We tried the yellow pages of the phone book and asked at the local pet stores to no avail. Then one day while reading our bird magazine, we came across a listing of bird clubs. And to our surprise we found that there were two bird clubs within an hour's drive of our home. So we called each club for information and attended their next meetings.
One club was small, having a membership of about 45 people with about 20-25 people attending each meeting. The evening started with some time to talk with each other about our birds and then followed with a meeting about club business and events. At this club, one member brings his/her birds for the club to meet. Although we had already enjoyed meeting this month's birds at the beginning of the meeting, the owner now talked to us about how they got the birds, how much they enjoyed them, how they took care of them and then answered questions. Next there was a presentation from an invited speaker about birds. Finally the club held a raffle for a toy and some items which were donated by the members. The people, mostly pet owners and a few breeders, were very friendly and we were made to feel very welcome.
The second club was quite large with over 300 members, about 90 -100 attending each meeting. There were pet owners, breeders and a vet at the meeting. This club also gave us time to meet others, held a business meeting, had two presentations about birds and held a raffle. All members were welcome to bring their pets (as long as they were clippped, behaved and healthy) and we were able to see and enjoy a lot of different species of birds and talk to their owners. Since the club was so big, there were also some vendors of bird supplies who came and set up tables for the members to buy bird items at discount prices. This club also sponsors a bird breeding program for one species of birds.
Both clubs had lending libraries for their members, published a monthly newlsetter with articles and ads, had adoption programs and had arranged club discounts at local pet stores. All the work was done by club members who volunteered their time. This is what made these clubs so successful.
Although the clubs were very different, we enjoyed both of them and joined. However, we don't attend all meetings and usually review the presentations for the month to decide if we will go to a meeting. We have learned much from the clubs and their members and even made some new friends. We heartily recommend joining a bird club.
Over time, we have learned a lot more about bird clubs and the things they do. There are hundreds in the U.S., Canada and other countries. Most are a good source for learning and sharing information about birds and many try to educate and help others in their communities. Some support or run environmental or conservation projects, some belong to and support national avicultural associations. Bird clubs are also an important means of learning about anti-bird laws in their communities and in helping to fight them. Unfortunately there are also some clubs which don't do much or suffer from internal bickering, so be careful when choosing a club.
There are so many benefits that bird clubs can provide, that we have compiled a list. Hopefully, you can find a bird club in your area which is involved in some of these activities.
Learning About Birds
There are many ways bird clubs help us in learning about birds. Meeting and talking to others at meetings, listening to presentations, using a club lending library, getting a club newlsetter and joining club trips to bird seminars and shows are just a few of them. Members can learn about care, different species, diet, poisonous substances, training, breeding, environment and conservation.
Many clubs maintain lending libraries of books, magazines and videos which members can borrow. Clubs publish newlsetters containing articles written by their members or reprinted from other sources such as other clubs with whom they exchange information, bird societies and even publications on the Internet (such as this publication - Winged Wisdom).
Finding Good Suppliers, Veterinarians, etc
One of the major benefits of a club is networking. Talking to others at the meetings can help in finding responsible breeders, learning which pet stores are clean and reliable, finding a good veterinarian and even finding a reliable pet sitter.
Making Friends and Socializing
Meeting other bird enthusuiasts helps develop new friendships, some which become longlasting. Clubs often sponsor Christmas parties, summer picnics, trips to bird seminars and shows, and other social events where members can enjoy themselves and the company of other bird lovers.
Many clubs offer discounts on supplies from local businesses. Others have vendors at the meetings. Group club trips to birds shows can save in transportation where items are often offered at discount prices. Some clubs even combine orders from it's members to qualify for discounts from large distributors or manufacturers.
Some clubs create a buddy system of pet sitters. Members volunteer to take care of each others' birds in an emergency or when a pet owner goes on vacation. Owners can then leave their birds knowing a lot about the person taking care of them and that they will get proper care.
Many clubs have an adoption program to help in finding new homes for unwanted birds. Club members can help birds find new loving homes in this way. They can even adopt an unwanted bird.
Clubs may run a rare species breeding project or support such projects run by others. They may also contribute to national environmental or conservation projects. They may join one or more avicultural societies such as the National Cockatiel Society, the Society (SPBE), the American Federation of Agriculture, etc. which promote avicultural research, provide education and watch bird legislation. Joining one of these societies often gives the club a vote on how the organization is run.
Protecting Bird Owners
More and more often, we are seeing communities and states pass laws restricting and regulating bird (and other pets) ownership. Often these laws are not well thought out, can invade our privacy, limit the number of birds we can own (a recent law in a New Mexico community limits a household to TWO pets) or require permits and fees to own a bird. Clubs can discuss and then take action to fight such laws. If the laws are statewide, clubs can join with other clubs and bird owners to get the word out and protect their birds. They can also support some of the aviculture societies who are fighting these laws for us.
Educating and Helping Others
One of the best things a club can do is to educate the local community about birds. Many people believe that birds are harmful, cause disease or should not be kept as pets. Animal rights organizations are often against the right of people to own ANY pets. Education programs such as going to schools, local organizations and groups (Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, etc.) can teach children and adults about the wonders of birds, to respect them, their value as pets and about the dangers to them in the wild.
Taking birds to old age homes and hospitals can also bring joy to lonely people. We have all heard of the benefits that pets bring to older and/or challenged people. We know of one club that has donated small birds and supplies to an old age home and which visits periodically to take care of them.
Some clubs hold birds shows and seminars to teach people about birds.
These endeavors require commitment by the club members, but if done well, are very rewarding to all.
If you are looking for a bird club, then ask your local veterinarian, a breeder or a bird store. A list of clubs is published from time to time in BirdTalk magazine. If you have access to the Internet, there are a number of sites which have lists of bird clubs or members of one of the bird related email lists can give you information.
Winged Wisdom Note: Carol and husband Ken have owned pet birds for over 13 years and are co-creators of the Birds n Ways, Winged Wisdom and Cockatoo Heaven websites.
Copyright © 1999 Carol Highfill and Winged Wisdom. All rights reserved.
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