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Liz Wilson, Noted Bird Behaviorist, Passes Away

By April 25, 2013 Uncategorized

Liz Wilson and I became friends over the years through our interactions in the avicultural community, quite often both speaking at various bird seminars across the country. She had a quick wit, was funny, possessed a sarcastic side,  had a no BS personna, was direct and forthright, opinionated about many things, and was supremely knowledgeable when it came to pet birds and their behavior. I learned so much about avian behavior through my interactions with her and was always excited when we would be speaking at the same seminars so I could learn more from her. The avicultural community lost an icon, I lost a friend.

Steve Dale, noted pet guru of all sorts of media, also had a great deal of interaction with Liz. He wrote a tribute to Liz, to which I contributed some comments. It is an excellent column, which is Steve’s hallmark, and I have copied it below.

Parrot Lovers Mourn, Liz Wilson Passes Away

“It’s with sadness that I report to you that Liz Wilson, the founder of our (International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants) Parrot Division, passed away this weekend.

Liz Wilson was a certified veterinary technician and certified parrot behavior consultant, and lived and working with parrots for over 40 years, with 20 years of experience as a veterinary technician specializing in avian and exotic animal nursing.

With prior training in elementary education and psychology, Liz started working with behavior in companion parrots in 1989. She gained recognition internationally as a parrot behavior consultant thanks to her lectures, seminars, freelance writing and consultations with parrot owners. An experienced and entertaining speaker, she did extensive lecturing with avian veterinary conferences, avicultural conferences, companion parrot conferences, and bird clubs both here in the USA and in Europe.

She wrote extensively for Bird Talk Magazine and Birds USA, as well as the Amazona Quarterly, the Original Flying Machine, the Pet Bird Report, and Parrots Magazine. She wrote a “Parrot Psychology” column in Bird Talk Magazine beginning in 2001 and wrote extensively for the Northern Parrots website, as well as participating in their lively Q&A column. Her articles have been published in Japan, Germany, the Netherlands, Great Britain, Spain, Italy, China, Sweden and Russia.

In addition to numerous veterinary articles published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association [JAVMA], the Journal of Avian Medicine and Surgery [JAMS], and the Journal of Exotic Pet Medicine, she wrote or co-authored eight veterinary textbook chapters, including two for Dr. Greg Harrison’s CLINICAL AVIAN MEDICINE (SPIX Publishing), and three for the MANUAL OF PARROT BEHAVIOR edited by Dr. Andrew Luescher (Blackwell Publishing).

Due to her devotion to helping parrots through helping colleagues (and herself) learn more about parrot behavior and working with parrot owners, she founded the Association of Parrot Behavior Professionals in 2001; in 2005, she moved this organization into the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants where it became the Parrot Division. She served the IAABC as the Parrot Division Chair, as well as the Treasurer, holding a position on the Board of Directors for three years. Despite her retirement, she remained active with the organization.

She was dedicated to parrot welfare, education and helping to re-home parrots when needed. In this capacity, she was named the Education Vice President of the Phoenix Landing Foundation in 2004. She was a member of the Parrot Education and Adoption Center and served on the adoption committees for both the San Diego, CA and Anchorage, AK chapters of PEAC.

Despite no longer working directly with veterinarians, she continued her membership of the Association of Avian Veterinarians, of which she had been a member since 1984. In addition to her work with parrot behavior, she was an adjunct faculty member in the veterinary technician department at Harcum College in Bryn Mawr, PA for a decade. She also worked extensively with wildlife rehabilitation for seven years.

She and her husband, David Hearn, had recently retired to her father’s old house on a barrier island off the Georgia coast, where she watched the incredible variety of wildlife from every window of their home. Along with her husband, Liz is survived by her feathered companion of more than 40 years, a 60+ year-old female blue and gold macaw named Sam.

Kashmir Csaky, IAABC Parrot Division Chair said, ‘Liz Wilson cast a bright light on the world of parrots. She touched us all. Every person with a parrot has felt her presence, even if they know it or not. They have read her words even if the words were past down from writer to writer, heard her advice even if it was past down from consultant to consultant. Her influence in the parrot world will remain even though she is now gone.

Liz was an atheist. She did not believe in God or an afterlife, but she did believe in ghosts. 🙂 Everyone and everything that has lived on this earth still remains in some form or another. We breath them in with every breath, we drink them in with every sip of water. They remain with us. While Liz did not accept the idea of an afterlife, I think the scientific concept of or molecules being recirculated is something that she would approve.

I cannot tell you how many times Liz has made me laugh, cry, think and see the beauty of the world. She has shared many jokes and videos on Parrot Opera, that were a reflection of who she was and they were amazing, inspiring, dark, uplifting and fun. I did not always agree with Liz, but I always respected and cared for her. She had, still has my admiration. I feel I must say more, so much more, but words cannot measure or describe Liz.’

Liz’s influence will certainly remain here at IAABC and in the world at large. She enjoyed a glass of good bourbon, and so we’ll raise our virtual glasses to this remarkable woman.

Famed parrot researcher Irene Pepperberg added, “Liz was an amazing, gracious woman who was always ready to help out; she was a terrific friend and colleague and will be sorely missed.”

Avian veterinarians had enormous respect, Dr. Peter Sakas of Niles, IL said, “Having been involved in avian medicine for over thirty years I have crossed paths with many people, but when it came to the field of bird behavior, there was no one like Liz Wilson. She was a trained veterinary technician, in addition to being an avian behaviorist. She had keen insight into bird behavior, backed by scientific behavior principles, which made her uniquely qualified, and was recognized as a national expert.

“Liz had a ‘no nonsense’ approach about her, was blunt, and ‘told it like it was.’ Liz and I had quite a connection and became good friends over the years. But one thing I did endeared me to her. I was the Master of Ceremonies of an avian education seminar several years ago and Liz was a speaker. In my introduction I stated that ‘as a behaviorist Liz is not a “cosmic’ or ‘touchy feely’ type behaviorist, her work was shaped by years working as a veterinary technician and steeped in sound behavioral principles….in plain English, Liz Wilson is a meat and potatoes type behaviorist. Liz absolutely loved that introduction and told me that she used that to describe herself after that!  I was honored to have been her friend and I, as well as the avicultural community will sorely miss her.”

It’s never too late – parrot owners and veterinarians who treat birds should know the name , Liz Wilson.