S. Sunny Nelson, M.A.


Animal Care


Animal Management


Hope B. McCormick Curator of Birds


M.A. – Biology, Miami University
B.A. – Psychology, Auburn University


Areas of Expertise

  • Avian husbandry and management
  • Avian conservation and reintroductions


Sunny began her career as a birds and small animals keeper at Zoo Atlanta. She has been at Lincoln Park Zoo since 2010, first as lead keeper of McCormick Bird House, then as zoological manager, and currently as Hope B. McCormick Curator of Birds. Sunny oversees a diverse range of more than 60 avian species.

In addition to daily curatorial duties, Sunny is the Species Survival Plan® (SSP) coordinator and studbook keeper for the Association of Zoo & Aquariums (AZA) Inca tern population and the vice-coordinator and studbook keeper for the Bali myna population. She also works closely with the AZA Population Management Center (PMC), U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and Puerto Rico Department of Natural Resources on the Puerto Rican Parrot Recovery Program.

Sunny currently works on the Bali Myna Recovery Program, is a member of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Species Survival Commission (SSC) Asian Songbird Trade specialist group, and serves on several avian steering committees and scientific advisory groups in AZA.


  • Delaski, K. M., Nelson, S., Dronen, N. O., Craig, T. M., Pond, J., & Gamble, K. C. (2015). Detection and management of air sac trematodes (Szidatitrema species) in captive multispecies avian exhibits. Journal of avian medicine and surgery, 345-353.