When you think of all the animals at a zoo, what comes to mind? Lions? Zebras? Monkeys?
How about birds? Because that’s what should come to mind.
“Birds make up roughly 70% of most zoo collections,” says Brooke Dolega, a sixth semester student at Ross Vet and the president of the Avian Medical Club. “I didn’t realize that before working at the Palm Beach Zoo. They had roughly 1,200 animals, and more than 800 were birds.
“Birds are also becoming more common as pets every year.”
Thus, a career in veterinary medicine means most likely coming in contact with birds in some way, shape or form. Yet, birds can be one of the toughest species to work on, for many reasons.
That’s exactly what brought Dolega to the Avian Club in the first place.
“I’ll admit, I used to be terrified to work with birds,” says Dolega, “and then I was thrown into doing it during an internship. I realized if I wanted to pursue my goals in veterinary medicine (she wants to get into conservation), I needed to get comfortable working with birds.”
That’s exactly what the Avian Club is designed to do. One of the most hands-on clubs on campus, members can “get as close to birds as they feel comfortable.” For some, that may be jumping right in and working with the birds in the aviary on campus or visiting local chicken farms to do examinations. For others, it may be simply watching, listening to lectures or practicing exams on stuffed animals.
At the end of the day, the goal is to help members build confidence working with our feathered friends.
“Birds have some of the coolest behaviors, and they’re highly intelligent,” Dolega said. “Yet, they can also be very hard to read. There’s no growling, hissing or hair raising to know if you’re making them upset. It might just be a pupil contracting.
“What I tell people is you don’t have to love birds to be in the club. You just have to want to be a well-rounded veterinarian. Though, don’t be surprised if joining brings out the bird nerd in you.”