Bird’s Eye View

DownUnder and in the US, Free-Flight clubs and meet-ups, both indoors and outdoors, emerge from social media relationships and from a hunger for tangible fellowship not possible on social media. Let’s make sure we’re making as much use of existing IRL bird club infrastructure as we can! Did you realize that, in the United States, at least, a network of bird clubs existed prior to the mushrooming of social media?

As some know, I have more rabbit than about parrot experience. When I first googled area bird clubs and shows, I naively expected a club structure like that for rabbits. But the two could not be more different!  And those differences reflect rabbits and birds different roles in our agricultural and companion animal histories and cultures.

In the United States, the American Federation of Aviculture (AFA), founded in 1974, is the umbrella bird club organization. AFA defines “aviculturist” “anyone keeping exotic birds in captivity” with “certain responsibilities transcending those of the owners of domesticated pets like dogs and cats.” The organization believes that aviculturists should seek always better to know their birds’ special needs, remain abreast of research conservation status, and legal developments impacting the species of bird they keep. AFA has a pre-existing club structure that we hope clubs newly emerging from social media will hook into– affiliation with AFA is easy: form your club and annually complete an affiliation form, pay the club-sized based annual fee, and partake of AFAs benefits for all your members.  Individual membership and participation also is highly encouraged.

AFA thus engages on many avian fronts. providing education (including certification) for parrot folk from companion bird owners, bird behavior consultants and trainers, to avian exotics breeders, etc. The AFA’s activities include a large annual convention, certification courses in aviculture, publication of the monthly award-winning magazine Watchbird, disaster assistance to avian organizations, and a network of local clubs as well as show circuits for such smaller birds as parakeets, lovebirds, and cockatiels. The AFA has regional and area directors to help coordinate its local activities.

The AFA is dedicated to the promoting aviculture, strengthening wild avian conservation through captive breeding programs, scientific research and the education of the general public. In promoting aviculture , AFA educate legislators represents the avicultural community at CITES meetings.

AFA-affiliated bird clubs surprise by the diversity of their member interests, their stated purposes and their calendars. Peninsula Caged Bird Society (PCBS) in Newport News, Virginia, provides a case in point. Established in the 1980s with AFA affiliation, in 1985 it held its first show under National Cockatiel Society’ sanction (insurance and governing rules). Note the fragmentation in bird organizations, not present in the older agricultural tradition of ARBA. Throughout the 1980s, the annual shows increased the species shown, which meant obtaining sanction through multiple bird specialty organizations. In 1993 with Bird Clubs of America/Bird Clubs of Virginia.

Over time, PCBS has established chapters for national conservation programs, breeding partnerships, and educational outreach to pet stores. In 1994 PCBS hosted its first BCA Breeder Convention. In 1999, PCBS inaugurated an auction program to benefit veterinary, aviculture, and conservation research. Seventeen years ago the club started a feather collection program to donate feathers to Southwestern Native American communities’ traditional rituals.

Nearby East Wings Free Flight club also is affiliated with AFA.

Here in the Washington, DC area, social media emerged just as the existing AFA club’s activity declined. Mark and I personally hope to see an all-species National Capital area  AFA club revive. (An AFA-affiliated lovebird club already exists). We are deeply grateful to Board members of AFA-affiliated Peninsula Caged Bird Society (PCBS) in Newport News, Virginia, in taking us under their wings. PCBS itself holds two bird marts and one show annually and also harbors local chapters for a broad spectrum national avian initiatives. If you live in the DC area and are interested in an AFA club here, please let us know via email at birbobserver@gmail.com.

So, as you put together those meet-ups, don’t forget to look for bigger organizations with which to affiliate!!! And don’t forget to check for local clubs in your area to coordinate with!

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