Campus News

Published by Communications and Public Affairs 519 824-4120, Ext. 56982 or 53338

News Release

April 26, 2006

U of G to Host Bird Conference

Bird experts from the Toronto Zoo, the Owl Foundation and the Ontario Veterinary College will talk about wild and domestic bird issues during a May 6 University of Guelph conference. The “All About Birds” conference runs from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the Ontario Veterinary College’s Lifetime Learning Centre.

Organized by U of G’s Wildlife Education and Environmental Programs (WEEP), the event features speakers and discussions ranging from the avian flu to how to do an avian post-mortem. There will also be a dozen vendors at the event with information and merchandise for pet bird owners and wild bird lovers.

“A lot of people are afraid of birds right now because of misconceptions about the avian flu, so we felt it was really important to educate pet bird owners, wild bird enthusiasts and the general public,” said Natalie Lemieux, a teaching lab technician in OVC’s Department of Pathobiology who’s the WEEP program co-ordinator and the conference director.
U of G pathobiology professor Bruce Hunter will speak on “Truth and Tales About the Avian Flu.” “The media hype around the bird flu and the World Health Organization predictions of a global flu pandemic has caused concern and uncertainty among pet bird owners and wild bird enthusiasts,” said Hunter. He will provide an update on the global avian influenza situation, discuss the possible role of wild birds in disseminating the virus and review some of ways governments and industry are preparing for the bird flu.

Other speakers in the wild bird section of the conference include Bill Rapley, director of conservation for the Toronto Zoo, and Kay McKeever of the Owl Foundation. Rapley will discuss the changing role of zoos as major educational facilities and partners in conservation. McKeever, a world expert on North American owls and owl behaviour, will speak about the trials and tribulations of working with North American owls.

Sessions of interest to pet bird owners and wild bird enthusiasts include hands-on practice in clipping wings, trimming nails, safely holding birds and basic medical care. Pathobiology professor Dale Smith will explain why and how to do an avian post-mortem. Margaret Mostert, a nursery manager from Mostert Aviaries, will discuss how to hand-raise a bird from hatchling to fledging.

OVC staff veterinarian Michael Taylor and Hunter will talk about the breeding behaviours and physiology of pet birds. “Participants can expect to see specimens first-hand, something you don’t see at a typical conference,” said Lemieux. “The workshop settings are designed to reduce the number of delegates in the seminars and provide an enhanced learning experience using the amazing resources available here at the college. ”

The conference is a fundraising effort for avian disease research and wildlife education. “Proventricular dilatation disease (PDD) is so devastating when it comes to pet birds, but there isn’t enough funding out there to support finding a cure for it,” said Lemieux. The funds raised will support U of G’s PDD research and will help hire a summer student for WEEP, a non-profit entity that educates the public through school and community group presentations.

The full-day conference registration fee is $60 general and $25 for students; the half-day fee is $35 general, $15 for students. For $5 per person or $8 per family, members of the public can browse through the vendors’ booths from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. or visit with a variety of parrots and wild birds from 3 to 6 p.m.

For more information, visit or call Lemieux at (519) 824-4120, Ext. 54670.

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt, (519) 824-4120, Ext. 53338, or Rachelle Cooper, Ext. 56982.

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