Michelle spent her summer volunteering at the aviary, helping to capture the remarkable stories of the birds she helped to take care of. We're delighted to share her story and all her efforts to support our organization.
So how did you decide to volunteer at the aviary?
"School had finished, and I have been hoping to volunteer over the summer. I had been hoping to find something to do with animals. After googling places to volunteer in Hamilton, I learned about the aviary. My mom then told me she used to go visit the birds when she was small at Dundurn Castle location, which made me even more interested in applying to become a volunteer."
On her first Monday shift Kerrie, the Red-lored Amazon, flew through a doorway and
landed on her shoulder. It was the beginning of a great friendship. "Kerrie is a timid bird, but ever since our first encounter he has allowed me to pet him on his head and chin and even fluffs up all his feathers."
So is Kerrie your favourite?
"I love all the birds! They have wonderful personalities when you get to know them."
Michelle, studying Media and Communications at the University of Guelph-Humber, took the opportunity to photograph the birds for the aviary's website. "It's been an amazing experience. I have captured beautiful images of the birds and the heartwarming relationships that the volunteers have made with the birds." Although she had dedicated much of her time capturing photos for the website Michelle says it's nothing compared to seeing them in person.
Do you have any funny stories from your time volunteering?
"I remember this one time the King was let out to fly. He gets the rule of the roost these days, and he is always making trouble. King enjoys landing on people, especially a volunteer named Hallia. When Hallia isn't in his sightline, King likes to come and land on my head, shoulder, arm, or back if I'm bent over. On my last week of in-person volunteering, I was trying to take some final photos of the birds. Still, I could hear King flying over to land on me whenever I raised my camera. Sometimes he makes it very difficult to get work done!"
"Another time, Sydney and King were in an outdoor enclosure while we were cleaning, and it started to rain. Little Sydney looked very wet and was happy to step for the first arm he was presented with. King instead flew out through the door and landed on Jonathan's head. Jonathan and I took the birds over to the greenhouse, closed the door behind us, and accidentally locked the door! The birds were drying off nicely, but we were dying in the heat. It can get quite hot there during the summer. Jonathan decided to knock on the door to see if we could get anyone's attention. Unfortunately, all the attention he received was from a disgruntled King who was still perched on his head and was unhappy with the sudden banging! Soon after, our crew leader came to rescue us, and we got back to cleaning."
Despite the opportunity to apply what I have been learning in school, for Michelle, the most rewarding part of volunteering at the aviary is being a part of making the birds happy. "We can provide the birds with enrichment and cuddles during our shifts, which makes their day more enjoyable. The aviary is the place they call home, so everyone needs to help maintain it. I do not have any pets now but after this really wonderful experience. I hope to get a bird in the future."
After much consideration, the aviary hopes!
"I believe The Hamilton Aviary is doing a great job making sure these animals have good lives and providing necessary education on tropical birds. I think it is important for people to learn about the commitment of keeping a bird as a pet, as well as the work required before they make that decision, so the aviary is a great place to learn about the amount of care that these birds need. As well, the aviary is a safe haven for the birds that live there, a place where they are taken good
care of, as every animal should."
Is there anything you miss about the aviary?
"I miss walking into the aviary, and when a bird squawks, whistles, or talks, be able to distinguish exactly who it is making noise."