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Bird Endowment President Laney Rickman with pets in 1991 as she unknowingly began a transition into a less than fashionable destiny.


Houston Zoo's former Curator of Birds Chelle Plasse and her successor Lee Schoen helped Laney Rickman move from being a corporate business executive to the frontline life of daily aviculture.


Laney (third from left) learning at Houston Zoo from Bird Department Keepers Melissa Thornton, Mike Smith, and Kay Oria.


Cage cleaning is appreciated by some residents at Houston Zoo and they demonstrate their feelings to Laney.



Joe Barkowski, then a keeper in Houston Zoo Bird Department, weighs a parent-reared chick in 1993. Joe is now Curator of Birds at Sedgwick County ( Wichita, Kansas) Zoo and Chair of the Parrot TAG and the Turaco and Cuckoo Tag of the American Zoo and Aquarium Association.


Taking her destiny on the road, Laney speaks before many bird groups, here at the 2002 American Federation of Aviculture convention.

Our History -- or in Laney's Words, Her Destiny

When you are of a certain age, you're certainly going to have a lot of history.

I may be of a "certain age" but Bird Endowment is rather recent in my life. Instead of history, I want to tell you about progressive steps toward fulfillment of personal destiny.

It started a ways back, in my more youthful years. It was 1990 when a friend gave me a fledgling Half-moon conure, which was my first pet bird. Luna was such a pleasure, I set out to educate myself about psittacines. A friend suggested working as a volunteer at Houston Zoo. It was here that I made many life-long friends over the next several years. It was here also that the Blue-throated macaw first came into my life. A very young pair and off exhibit.

During this zoo period I also acquired a Scarlet macaw, joined the American Federation of Aviculture, attended my first AFA convention in Florida, and met the parents of the male Blue-throated macaw at my zoo. The mechanics of the previous sentence as well as the words help describe this time when events ran together seemingly without pause or end -- just like that sentence.

Oh, one thing was left out of that sentence above. There just didn't seem to be any more room up there. I had acquired my first pair of wild-caught Blue-throated macaws. When I confessed to my keeper friends at the zoo that I really wanted a pair, they had laughed and said, "Yeah, and do you know how much they would cost?" I found out. That's why the male of this pair was named Ira -- for the tax-sheltered account that I raided to buy them.

But, it is my destiny, right, to work with Blue-throated macaws. And as William Jennings Bryan said:

Destiny is not a matter of chance,
it is a matter of choice.
It is not a thing to be waited for,
it is a thing to be achieved.

My BTM destiny wasn't just chopping up fruits and veggies, putting out seed and nuts, cleaning and maintenance. Part of the zoo people experience was an on-going debate on the pros and cons of parent rearing psittacines. This give and take forced me to consider that my destiny might also be in empowering parents to rear their offspring.

After investigating the limited papers and scant research resources on parent rearing, I concluded that empowering natural parenting was urgently important for the Blue-throated macaw species' long-term survival in captivity. When I told the parent rearing advocates at the zoo what I intended to do, they pledged their full support. In fact, this first pair's first clutch hatched while I attended the AFA convention in Salt Lake City. Zoo Keeper friend Joe Barkowski assured me he would check on the eggs and parents as necessary. He checked, the eggs hatched, and the parents did what they were supposed to do.

Now there was no doubting my crusade, so in 1994 we grabbed destiny fully by the horns and wrestled it down to a farm in the Guadalupe River Valley of South Central Texas.

Since then, I've been preaching parent-rearing to whom ever would listen or read. In practicing what I preach, we have had our own successes and failures, celebrations and heartbreaks.

To better assure destiny fulfilled, the nonprofit 501 (c) (3) Bird Endowment Inc. was formed in 1998. It ensures an opportunity for the Blue-throated macaw species to thrive independently of any individual person. Ownership of the birds and all the physical assets has been transferred to Bird Endowment. This financial structure provides a survival vehicle for the future, so long as yet-unborn people will care enough to make a difference.

We have enjoyed converts in our parent-rearing crusade, from both breeders and enthusiasts. Some individuals stand out for their strong financial support of Bird Endowment; they are necessary to our success and they know how much we appreciate them. Some supporters are so enthusiastic in their work for Bird Endowment that they must be recognized. We love them. And then there are those of you who are realizing you can make a difference by joining forces with all of our long term supporters, who just keep helping year after year; we can't succeed without each of you.

To wrap up the "history" of Bird Endowment, my personal destiny has become a group project. Together, we are going to make sure that the Blue-throated macaw survives in captivity -- at the least -- with its species culture intact. Thanks to parent-rearing.