As you may know, I first came to Lincoln Park Zoo to be curator of birds in 1976. So while my current role extends to every part of the zoo, I’ll always have a special spot in my heart for the Bird Department.
Toward that end, I’m happy to announce Sunny Nelson as the zoo’s new Hope B. McCormick Curator of Birds. Sunny has years of hands-on experience working with avian species, from her start at Zoo Atlanta to recent stints as lead keeper and zoological manager here at Lincoln Park Zoo. Her commitment and enthusiasm make her an ideal candidate to build on the zoo’s strengths in the field.
Sunny Nelson is Lincoln Park Zoo's new Hope B. McCormick Curator of Birds.
Sunny’s history with birds extends to her first days at Zoo Atlanta, where she was asked to clean a sun conure exhibit and fell in love with the lively flock around her. She decided to make birds the focus of her career—a wise choice.
Since then, she’s worked with zoo species from Guam Micronesian kingfishers to red-billed hornbills. That last species is her current favorite, although that changes nearly every day. As she told me, “It doesn’t matter how tiny they are—they still think they’re gigantic.”
A red-billed hornbill at Regenstein African Journey, Sunny's current favorite bird.
Her work extends to the wild as well. Last year she traveled to Michigan to help rear chicks for the Great Lakes Piping Plover restoration program. This small shorebird is endangered in the Great Lakes region due to habitat loss and human development. In her new role, Sunny hopes to help raise awareness about the plover’s plight—and how Lincoln Park Zoo is helping the species.
Right now, though, she’s busy with the beginning of breeding season at the zoo. Nest boxes are being cleaned and repaired before they return to service. Birds throughout the zoo are receiving twigs, feathers and other natural nest construction materials as animal care staff prepare for the busy time ahead.
It’s a fun time for the department, even as we’re sad to say goodbye to departing curator Colleen Lynch, who did a great job. As someone who once filled the same shoes, though, I’m excited to see what Sunny will accomplish.