Career path of an exotic bird handler in California

Jackie Coleman is something of a “rare bird” when it comes to how she earns her salary. For the past 20 years, she has worked as a bird her handler her supervisor at the beachfront Catamaran Resort Hotel and Spa, a tropical Polynesian-style accommodation located on her eight acres in San Diego’s Mission Bay. I came.

Far from being stuck in front of a computer from 9 to 5, Coleman feeds after the resort’s feathered residents, including six large parrots and nine mandarin ducks, and other occasional wildlife, I spend my days tending and cleaning. Go to properties. She also oversees the resort’s actual mesmerizing outdoor tiki her room. Here, parrots have the chance to impress guests with their speech and tricks.

Recently, Coleman, 56, took time out of his morning cage cleaning to talk. luck Outside of her traditional work. This conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.

What does a typical day look like for you?

A typical day for an exotic bird handler here on a catamaran varies from day to day. In the morning we usually check how the ducks are doing. There are many exotic ducks here now.

Then go into the bird room where the parrot is. Every morning when we walk into the room they start saying “hello, hello” when you open the door. We make sure they are okay, feed them, then let them out of the garden so we can clean the inside.

During the day we work on teaching them new behaviors. So you can add a variety of small actions and tricks for summer and spring break shows that introduce guests to birds, talk a little about birds and their species, and run birds.All other tricks and actions and vocalizations

Working on new things with them is fun for us and our guests, and good for the birds. They probably he can learn a phrase in a week and a new action in a week or he can learn in two weeks, depending on what it is. Or maybe months. It depends on what you’re working on and who you’re working with.

It also depends a lot on your personality. The youngest parrot, Cornell (named after the university), is a green-winged macaw who knows so many actions and so many phrases. The oldest Mercer is 34 years old and knows two words and he three actions.

They are so smart and so social that they need a lot of attention every day. They are very mischievous and need to be kept busy.

Courtesy of Catamaran Resort Hotel and Spa

It seems like you spend most of your day eating and cleaning?

A lot of cleaning content! So usually I clean their cages and make food.The parrots get parrot pellets and lots of fresh fruit and veggies. They get a few seeds and some treats. They really like pistachios and small crackers, or small parrot muffins.

Wait a minute, is the whole “Polly wants crackers” phrase true?

Parrots usually love crackers. And some of us would say yes. They would say “cracker”. When asked what goes well with cheese, they always answer “crackers.”

How did you get into this type of role? Was this like a lifelong ambition?

I grew up in Wisconsin. Not so much about exotic animals. But when I was 19, I moved to California just for fun. Then, just before Christmas, I got a job at a restaurant at Knott’s Berry Farm. That was very fun.

But after Christmas they cut my time. I went to HR and said, ‘Really he needs 40 hours, so can he work elsewhere in the park? At the time they didn’t really like doing that but the manager asked me my height. And I said I’m 5ft. And he said you want to be Snoopy. And I said no. However, it turned out to be for an animal show. I like animals, so it was Snoopy in the animal show. And I love the show. Everyone I worked with went to Moorpark College for animal training. And that’s how I learned about it. That’s how I got into my career. I happened to be short.

You mentioned college. What kind of degree do you need to do this kind of work?

I have a degree in Exotic Animal Training and Management. This is what I learned at school in Moorpark. This community college has an on-campus zoo with about 200 animals, ranging from lions and tigers to primates and birds of prey.

When I was doing shows at Knott’s Berry Farm, they had an animal show and another bird show, so it mostly happened to go into birds as a specialty. did After leaving Knott’s and going to college and graduating, I did a few other things. As it happens, there are many jobs related to birds, as opposed to chimpanzees. That’s how I entered. But once you get the hang of it, birds are a lot of fun. I’ve worked with parrots for so long that it’s hard to imagine working with any other animal.

What would you be doing if you weren’t doing this job?

I can’t imagine doing anything else. I probably work with animals such as animal care, rehabilitation, and education. I have done many different things in my career. I was a zookeeper at the LA Zoo and the San Diego Zoo. We had bird shows and animal shows at Knott’s Berry Farm and LA Zoo. I have worked in a variety of places, including animal rescue and rehabilitation, and educational work.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

Every day is just a little bit more fun. Many people are surprised to see birds. They have never actually seen a parrot or seen it perform or speak. Many guests ask, is this your real job?or they payment you for this? People are pretty amazed that I can do that with a full-time job.

If someone gets sick or something, it can be a little difficult. Like any animal, it can cause respiratory problems. Here at Catamaran, we truly care about the care of our animals. They are very, very spoiled. We also have a very good exotic bird veterinarian about 10 minutes away if needed.

Courtesy of Catamaran Resort Hotel and Spa

Is poop the biggest occupational hazard?

I need to be able to stay outside the poop zone.

It sounds similar to SeaWorld’s Splash Zone…

You should know where to stand.

How often do you get new residents?

They live so long that they are rare. In general, the bigger the parrot, the longer it lives. As such, macaws (the resort currently has three) typically live about 60-70 years. Some even live to be close to 100 years old.

And then there are space constraints and time constraints. We would love to spend a lot of time with them all. So you don’t get new birds very often. A lot of people ask, “Will you do a rescue?” But we can’t do that here.

One of the things that we try and stress to people is that even if you could go out and buy a parrot and have it as a pet, it wouldn’t make a good home pet for most people. . If you have it as a pet at home, you may not be able to give it the time and attention it needs because you may have to go to work or school. We have a team here on Catamaran. We are currently a team of three. So usually he is two and he spends eight hours a day playing with the birds.

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