Spotlight on Aviculture: Nancy Speed


This edition of AFA Watchbird shines a spotlight on an aviculturist whose dedication and accomplishments are matched only by her tenacious drive, charm, exceptional breeding talents and avian socialization techniques that create the conditions for well adjusted pet birds. This spotlight is on our current President, Nancy Speed. In the past 17 years, Nancy served AFA as an official Club Delegate, State Coordinator, Regional Director and Secretary. Her wit and poise is well known. When asked, others typically characterize Nancy Speed as an elegant woman, gracious, respectful, tenacious and a mentor to others. Nancy has an impeccable reputation in the field of aviculture that she values highly. She was taught from an early age that a good name and reputation are your most valuable assets. Nancy Speed has written numerous articles for various avicultural publications. Her favorite articles are those that entertain and educate pet bird owners by sharing with them the adventures and responsibilities involved in keeping and breeding a large flock of parrots. She's well established as an international mentor to breeders and pet owners alike. Nancy has been a speaker at many events across the United States from bird clubs to prestigious conferences.

By Concetta Ferragamo For the Love of a Budgie

As with most avicultural life stories, Nancy's love of parrots started as a child with an American Budgerigar named Roger. She visited Roger and his owner often and eventually Roger was rehomed with Nancy. Nancy's mom fostered a love of all animals and it was common to find the occasional chicken, duck, rabbit, guinea pig, cat and dog living in their suburban home.

The Tune That Sparked an Avocation

The intriguing repertoire of a neighborhood cockatiel that could whistle "Dixie" ignited the spark to own another parrot during Nancy's adult years. That song inspired her to purchase a recently weaned normal grey cockatiel, Nancy proudly taught Barney many things, including whistling "Dixie" and the theme from The Andy Griffith Show

In 1986 it was time to add a second bird to the household and Nancy decided the species that would best match her lifestyle was a Congo African Grey. She believes the life changes that they've experienced during the last 26 years are solid evidence that parrots can readily adapt to new situations and lifestyles.

The Love of Pets Led to a New Adventure

Nancy briefly considered returning to college to obtain a degree as a veterinary technician. Her first husband's passion was collecting cars and a compromise between them allowed her to begin her incredible journey in aviculture, beginning with breeding normal peach-faced lovebirds. As a typical beginner's bird, the lovebird was highly sought after and was the ideal starting point for Nancy's initial breeding endeavors. Nancy enjoyed pairing and breeding lovebirds for several years. She had no concrete plan or vision for her future in birds and ultimately chose a species simply by viewing an admired photo from a comprehensive book entitled "The Atlas of Parrots" written by David Alderton. She had never seen a Hawk-headed parrot, other than in photos, until she purchased a young pair in 1992. Alderton's book kindled her passion for conservation and Nancy decided to apply for a captive bred wildlife permit to keep and breed the Cuban and Vinaceous amazon. "My advice to anyone interested in breeding birds is to choose a species in which to specialize and learn as much about that species as possible."

Nancy's life changed dramatically when her first husband passed away. She met her second husband, Joe through a local bird club and they married in 1995, combining his flock of amazons, cockatoos, Eclectus parrots and macaws with her smaller flock of various species including conures, Meyer's parrots, Caiques and Hawk-headed parrots. That year Nancy also purchased a breeder friend's collection of Black-headed and White-bellied caiques. The friend had previously offered her collection of ~een of Bavaria (Golden) conures, but Nancy had never heard of the species and was not interested in them at that time. Upon finalizing the purchase of the other birds, the seller said, "You have to take the ~eens too." The species was added to her captive bred wildlife permit and she and her husband drove to North Carolina to pick up the birds and meet their first Golden conures. Her efforts in breeding the Golden conures over the years paid off, and she is now pairing up fifth generation youngsters.