Trumpet of the swan


It's frustrating dealing with the mentality that birds aren't as deserving of care as other animals.

I work with a variety of birds, mostly pets, ranging from swans to canaries—I've even worked with Donald Trump's swans at the Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach, Fla. The ponds and lakes at the course are home to royal mute swans and Australian black swans. I conduct physical exams, tend to any sick swans, and give husbandry recommendations.

Swan song: Dr. Flinchum (right) with a lame swan rescued from Donald Trumps golf club and later relocated. Above (inset), Dr. Flinchum tends to a female goose with a foot problem at a wildlife care center. The male goose insisted on being at the females side during the procedure. (Photo credits: Jayne Heatherly; Heather LaPiana)

One of the more sad occurrences I've encountered was when a man playing golf was approached by a black swan, which is a naturally curious creature. The man freaked out and clubbed the swan to death. I met with the manager of the golf club and suggested some ways he could use natural barriers to separate the swans from the golfers. I also recommended that he create a member education bulletin board where golfers could learn about the swans and what to do if a swan approaches.

The last swan the manager called me out to see was lethargic and needed further testing. I gave my recommendations and he told me to do whatever was necessary. When the bill reached about $600, the manager had a fit and said it was outrageous to spend that much money—Mr. Trump wouldn't allow that kind of money to be spent on a sick bird when they could just go buy a new swan. So now the manager doesn't call me unless there's a major problem or he gets a complaint about a sick swan from a club member.

It's frustrating dealing with the mentality that birds aren't as deserving of care as other animals. The bright spot is working with those compassionate clients who support their birds and my work. Working with those people is rewarding.

—Gwen B. Flinchum, DVM, DABVP (avian) All Bird Clinic of the Palm Beaches; Lake Worth, Fla.

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