Tony Silva — winner of BirbObserver‘s 1st Annual Birbie for Best Aviculturist— earned his wings in exotics field research and zoo management (Silva is a former Loro Parque Curator) as well as in aviculture. Author of the ever-informative Psittaculture (now available in its second, updated edition!), Silva exudes a focused energy, keen attention and calm competence. Silva does not shrink from the mantle of educator cast upon him — to the contrary, YouTube videos shot around the globe attest to his dedication as a mentor and teacher. Gifted with appealing intelligence and social grace, Silva lives out the adage “to whom much has been given, of them much will be asked.”
As a youth, Silva precociously published a book on tropical aquaria. Even his mother expressed amazement at its success. Now an international businessman with a model private aviary and an itinerary a mile long, Silva still finds time to exercise leadership in aviculture. If you’re up to daily lectures on bird matters, check out Tony’s Facebook page. Daily posts often constitute thoughtful essays on bird-related topics. Tony places a premium on education and also humility: “Today I know less than I did yesterday; tomorrow I will know less than today.”
As Silva well knows, birds are complex creatures. Did you know that within one species or subspecies, behavior may vary relative to the geographic location of the hereditary flock? For instance, in Bolivia, blue-throated macaws in the Barba Azul Reserve, the westernmost population, like their nests in tree hollows below the leaf canopy, while blue-throated macaws in a more eastern population only nest within hollows occurring at the very top of palm trunks, above any canopy? The point is that it is unwise to expect to predict your own bird’s behavior by asking your best online friend about her bird.
Silva also emphasizes to parrot lovers that scientific developments since the 1970’s and 1980s have significantly altered contemporary understanding. Did you realize that parrots evolved consuming only low-sugar/unripened fruits? Thus these birds avoided stiff competition for later-in-time ripe, high-sugar fruits. In establishing the proper diet for a bird, Silva counsels, first, provide foods the bird in fact evolved eating. Next, to the extent scientific data confirms the appropriateness of other foods for your species of bird, supplement that evolutionary diet with those foods.
Silva encourages students of aviculture to seek out experts in their fields, whether avian nutrition or behavior or veterinary medicine. While technology readily avails us of voluminous information, only subject-matter experts reliably can relay the most scientifically current, accurate and appropriate information. Silva advises joining national bird clubs and organizations as well — for access to quality educational resources. For instance, in the United States, the American Federation of Aviculture‘s BirdWatch magazine, which comes with membership, is the nation’s premier avian field research publication. Silva advises setting aside time to read and digest material, thereby acquiring a basic body of knowledge.
In southern Florida, Tony is hatching a plan: an advanced aviculture education center, which currently is under construction. Interns would stay for an extended period and raise birds under supervision of experienced aviculturists.