Australian BirdKeeper magazine editor Sheryll Steele-Boyce sources knowledge from experts around the world for the publication, which is celebrating its 30th birthday.
Australian BirdKeeper magazine editor Sheryll Steele-Boyce sources knowledge from experts around the world for the publication, which is celebrating its 30th birthday. Yvonne Gardiner

Bird is the word for popular aviary magazine on the Coast

THE popularity of aviculture, keeping and breeding birds in captivity, ebbs and flows.

Three decades ago, aviculture was a "dirty word", says Australian BirdKeeper magazine editor Sheryll Steele-Boyce.

Critics said it was cruel to keep birds in captivity.

Conservationists now are seeing the value of captively breeding birds, because many species are extinct or endangered in the wild, and natural habitats are diminishing.

Many people around the world who keep and breed birds have turned to the Australian BirdKeeper for information and advice.

The magazine is celebrating its 30th anniversary. It was started in the Tweed and is now based in Burleigh, but it is distributed around Australia and worldwide.

Sheryll met her ex-husband Nigel a year after he started BirdKeeper.

"Shortly after, he published the first A Guide to ... series book on rosellas and their mutations," she said.

"This was the beginning of a list of 30 captive care titles on species kept in Australia, plus specialist titles on health and diseases in birds and pet and companion birds.

"Some of the authors are from overseas and they have been invited to write as they are leaders in breeding the specific species book topic."

ABK Publications' website was introduced in 1996.

"We used to make enormous sales overseas and it slowly started to diminish as the internet became more prevalent," Sheryll said.

"I decided it was time to diversify eight years ago into reptile and amphibian books, and distribution of quality natural pet products for birds, reptiles, amphibians, cats and dogs.

"Today, about 30 per cent of the books are now out of print but we're setting them up as e-books."

Regular contributors to the magazine include bird vets, pet bird behaviourists, bird breeders, pet bird owners, ecologists, conservationists and young people entering the hobby.

"The thing with aviculture, it's an older person's hobby mostly," Sheryll says.

"It gives them an interest every day. If they have a love of birds and maybe kept them when younger, they turn to such a hobby with more time available to enjoy the beauty of bird-keeping.

"The younger generation aren't joining the hobby in great numbers, as there are more distractions. Some families enjoy keeping a range of animals including birds, mostly where they have an environment and property to sustain the animals - such as on rural properties.

"In suburbia there's a trend towards keeping birds as pets, rather than breeding them in aviaries, partly due to council regulations and higher density living. "This is where the increase in pet birds has occurred."

As editor, Sheryll is pedantic about content and perfecting information.

"I work with the authors, who get a brief. I like to interact with them," she said.

"I think it's important to have their personality present in their articles."

Other specialists may have input into a chapter to make it complete.

"I always pass it by peers and make sure they pick something up that's glaringly wrong," Sheryll said.

"We went to America for an author for a book about macaws.

"A lot of European breeders keep Australian species and breed mutations."

Australian BirdKeeper also includes a regular column on conservation, and supports groups which help maintain species in the wild.

Readers can subscribe or buy the bi-monthly magazine at selected newsagents or pet shops.

It is sold in 20-plus countries, including New Zealand, USA, UK and European countries.

ABK's main awards

1989    Apple Macintosh award of excellence for innovation in presentation

1990    Australian Small Business Award - North East Region of NSW

1991    NSW Awards for Small Business Regional Winner - Northern Rivers for Innovation

1999    Australian Federation of Aviculture - Avicultural Literary Achievement (this was the first time that such an award was presented to a commercial publisher by this entity)

2006    NSW Small Business Award for Popular Choice

2014    Reptecon Award as recognition of dedication to the reptile industry

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