Take Flight With These 12 Bird Lover Career Ideas

By Paula Fitzsimmons

Birds are in our backyards and cities, they live with us in our homes, and reside in sanctuaries and zoological parks. We love their beauty, intelligence, and diversity . . . ironically, it’s these same qualities that often put them in harm’s way. They enhance our lives, and so we have an obligation to protect them. One of the best ways to do this is with a bird-focused career or business.

If you’d like to work with or for birds, consider the following jobs and businesses. Whether you like science, writing, art, business, or providing hands-on care, there’s a way for you to contribute to avian welfare . . . while making a living.

1. Become a bird doc

Anyone who’s lived with a parrot or other type of exotic bird understands the importance of having a good avian veterinarian. Birds have unique needs, and caring for them is much different than caring for dogs, cats, and other companion animals. True, all vets are trained to treat birds, but avian vets are trained more rigorously in specifics.

Aside from vet clinics and veterinary teaching hospitals (treating patients and teaching), other potential employers include wildlife rehab centers, zoological parks, and bird food companies.

To become an avian veterinarian, take the steps to become a licensed vet, then complete your residency and internship requirements in avian (and often, exotic) medicine. After years of additional training, you can qualify to become board certified through American Board of Veterinary Practitioners – Avian Subspecialty or American College of Zoological Medicine (ACZM).

Find more info:

• Association of Avian Veterinarians

 

2. Thinking of becoming a vet tech? Consider an avian specialty

We couldn’t function effectively without her is what an avian vet once told me about his clinic’s vet tech. That’s how essential these unsung heroes are. Avian vet techs are responsible for a number of essential tasks – they educate clients, do patient intakes, help prep birds for surgery, and fit them for e-collars, to name a few.

Employment options for avian techs include vet offices, teaching hospitals, zoological parks, animal rescues and sanctuaries.

Most states require graduation from an American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA)-accredited two or four-year veterinary technology program. You’ll learn avian anatomy in school, but much of your bird-specific training will likely be gained on the job or through volunteer work at rescues and sanctuaries.

Find more info:

• The Academy of Veterinary Technicians in Clinical Practice has a category dedicated to exotic companion animals.

 

3. Start a parrot rescue

Not a lot has changed since I first wrote “Do You Have What it Takes to Be An Avian Rescuer?” in 2003. There are still a lot of homeless companion birds – parrots, canaries, finches, doves – that end up in shelters. It’s not unusual for avian rescues to be filled to capacity. More avian rescues are needed, and if this is something you want to do, kudos. But also keep in mind that running any type of rescue is a demanding and lifelong commitment, so make sure you’re in it for the long haul before proceeding.

There are no specific education or work requirements needed to start an avian rescue, but you’ll need to hone a number of skills, including in management, business, fundraising, communication, and of course, bird care. You’ll also need to get familiar with the legal aspects of running a nonprofit, including tax laws, and boards of directors.

If you’re not up to the task of starting a bird rescue – don’t feel badly, most people aren’t – consider finding a job at one as a caregiver. Best Friends Animal Society’s Parrot Garden, for example has placed employment ads on this site for avian caregivers.

Find more info:

• The Avian Welfare Coalition has a page full of resources for people interested in starting a bird rescue, placement, or sanctuary organization.
• Article: “Do You Have What it Takes to Work for A Parrot Rescue Organization? An Interview With Foster Parrots
• Article: “6 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Starting an Animal Rescue

 

Cockatiel - start a parrot sanctuary

 

4. Write about (and for) birds

If you’re a writer, some of your options include the following . . .

• Write articles for magazines. May include any of the following: Publications by conservation organizations (such as Audubon magazine); pet and bird-related magazines (like Parrots magazine); general magazines with pet sections (such as Woman’s Day); online magazines; and trade journals.

• Start your own blog or website.

• Self-publish a book or e-book. Or consider working with a publisher. True, it’s harder to break in this way, but others have succeeded. Consider titles like “Birdology” and “Wesley the Owl,” each of which was picked up by a publishing house.

• Write marketing content for bird-related businesses.

• Write grant proposals and fundraising letters for bird-related nonprofit organizations.

Find more info:

• Article: “Do You Write About Animals? Where to Find Paying Markets

• Article: “9 Paying Markets That Pay You to Write About Animals

Freelance Writers Den is a subscription-based membership that gives you access to all of their bootcamps and training, weekly Den meetings, forums, and a “junk-free job board.” And yes, I’m currently a member. (affiliate link)

• Book: How To Blog For Profit: Without Selling Your Soul

(affiliate link)

 

5. Run a companion bird boarding business

It’s like doggie daycare, except that your clients are feathered instead of furred. You can run a small bird sitting service in your home, or set your sights higher with a bigger boarding business similar to ParrotU‘s.

More important than size is your knowledge of companion birds – like parrots –  and your ability to properly care for them. Having an understanding of their nutritional and social needs, how to provide first aid, and knowledge of disease prevention, are examples of concepts you should know if you want to care for other people’s birds.

You don’t need a specific degree, but it helps if you’ve worked as a vet tech or have extensive experience with birds. If you don’t have experience, volunteer or work for a bird boarding service, vet office, or avian sanctuary.

Find more info:

• IAP College offers a solid course and book on how to Become a Pet Sitter. (affiliate link)

Pet Sitters International‘s Certification Program for professional pet sitters features a chapter on bird care. PSI also sells bird-care profile sheets to help you ask your new bird-sitting clients essential questions.

 

Mix ‘n Match Careers

If you have more than one interest, consider creating your own customized career. Examples of job pairings can include . . .

• Sell hand-crafted bird earrings to local retailers / run a blog or website

• Work as a part-time avian vet tech / run a bird boarding business

• Work for a nonprofit advocacy organization / write articles for magazines

Find more info:

• Article: “The Freedom of Flexibility: Customize Your Own Animal Career” for more ideas.

• Book:  The Renaissance Soul: How to Make Your Passions Your Life (affiliate link)

 

6. Create products for birds . . . and bird people

Walk inside a Wild Birds Unlimited and take a look at some of the products they offer – from bird feeders and supplies, to bird-themed home decor and jewelry. Can you create a product that you can sell to bird supply stores, museum gift shops, or hardware stores?

Or go online to a venue like etsy.com, do a search for “Birds” and you can easily be presented with hundreds of unique, handcrafted items – from earrings, totes, and coloring books to paintings, pillows, and bird houses.

If you decide to go into retail or wholesale, understand that there’s a lot of competition . . . but then again, there’s always room for unique, marketable products.

Find more info:

• Article: “Should You Start a Home-based Animal-themed Gift Store?

 

7. Solve a problem

Birds face an enormity of problems . . .you  probably know that. What we need more of are solutions. What can you invent that can improve the lives of birds, and the people who care for birds? Your creation doesn’t need to be confined to a gadget, either – think phone apps, software programs, and websites, too.

Not sure where to start? Focus on a specific avian-related problem – such as parrot homelessness or bird / window collisions, for example – then come up with an invention that can help solve that problem, or at least improve the situation for birds.

Find more info:

• Article:  “Put Your Ideas to Good Use . . .for the Animals

 

8. Rescue, rehabilitate, release

That’s the goal of wildlife rehabilitators – to rescue birds long enough to help them heal. In addition to being a rehabber, you may want to take a look at other positions at some of the larger centers. Several wildlife center jobs that have been posted on the Animal Jobs Digest “Find Jobs” section have included Animal Care Manager, Development Coordinator, and Director of Wildlife Rehabilitation.

Find more info:

National Wildlife Rehabilitators Association

• PAWS has a helpful article on “How to Become a Wildlife Rehabilitator

International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council

 

Career as raptor rehabilitator

 

9. Work for an advocacy organization

Some nonprofit organizations – like National Audubon Society and World Parrot Trust – advocate specifically for birds. Others other animal welfare groups with a broader focus – like Humane Society of the United States and International Fund for Animal Welfare – may incorporate avian issues into their work. Jobs at animal welfare organizations vary, and may include anything from Social Media Manager and Fundraising Director, to Wildlife Biologist and Rehab Specialist.

Some of the National Audubon Society jobs posted on this site have included Field Organizer, Conservation Science Manager, Education Manager, Field Technician, Raptor Care Rehabilitation Assistant, Communications / Outreach Director, and Fundraising Events Associate, to name a few. As you can see from this list, opportunities are available in a range of categories, including science and conservation, wild bird care, fundraising, communications, and education.

 

Where to get experience with birds if you don’t have any

These organizations are often ripe with opportunities to volunteer and intern. Some can likely be done virtually.

• Avian rescues and sanctuaries

• Raptor rehabilitation centers

• Wild bird rescue center

• Zoological parks – some zoos have come a long way in enhancing life for their residents.

• Nonprofit organizations. For instance, the National Audubon Society’s WINGS program offers paid and unpaid internship opportunities in a number of areas, including education, writing, and science.

 

10. Work for a bird supply business

Think of the different types of businesses that manufacture avian products – for instance, veterinary medical supplies, nutritional parrot snacks, and wild bird food. Any number of administrative type opportunities may exist within each of these companies -Sales Manager, Accountant, Social Media Coordinator, and Operations Director, to name a few.

One place to look for jobs is FlexJobs, a fee-based membership site loaded with flexible job ads from a large assortment of businesses. (affiliate link)

 

11. Sell your stock photos

Getting hired as a photographer by a publication like National Geographic is a long shot. Not that you shouldn’t aim for that goal if that’s what you want, but you need tons of experience and a stunning portfolio just to qualify. A surer bet? Selling your bird-themed photos to stock image companies.

It’s something to consider, especially if you get compliments on your bird photos. One of the attractive features of this type of business is that income is passive.

Find more info:

• Everything Microstock has a handy chart of microstock agencies accepting contributors, as well as information about entering the business. If you’re an artist, check out their sections on selling your illustrations, artwork, and videos.

 

Blue green bird-advocate for wild birds

 

12. Run birdwatching tours

Companies like Naturalist Journeys and Bird Treks take their customers on expert-guided tours to go birdwatching and take photos. To pursue this line of work, you’ll need to know a lot about birds, and have in-depth knowledge of where the birding hot spots are.

You can try finding work with an established company, or venturing out on your own. Companies like ToursbyLocals offer help with marketing and other types of support.

Find more info:

•  The International Ecotourism Society focuses on sustainable travel.

 

 

Your turn: Do you have an interest in working with birds?

 

Top Bald Eagle image credit (minus additional type): #30483818 from Clipart.com.

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