I had spent my childhood summers on my grandparent's farm in southern Illinois, and I had always felt I should have been a farmer. Living in Chicago just didn't lend itself to that opportunity. As a child and much against my grandparent's warnings, I was forever bringing home baby birds that had fallen from nests. My grandfather especially would explain how baby birds could not survive with out their parents. More often than not he was right, and they would die, no matter how hard I tried. And now, every time I go to pull baby birds from their nests, I hear my grandfather's stern voice echoing in my ears and my heart pounds. But by some miracle, I am now able to nurture, and guide these fragile babies into adulthood.
We moved to Florida in 1980. Up until that time, I didn't even know people kept birds as pets, except for parakeets. Of course once established here, I met all sorts of people that owned birds. They owned every bird imaginable, from finches to hyacinth macaws. I found them fascinating, and became quite interested in these captive wild animals.
I was at a pet shop in Florida when my eyes fell upon a parrot in a cage. I sucked in my breath and I know my heart stopped for just a fraction of a second. Something had touched my soul and the connection that changed my entire life, had just been made. There sat an African grey in all his majestic splendor. At this point, I realized, parrots were not just something I was interested in. The African greys, with their magic, were to be a part of my life forever. I would be a farmer, well sort of, after all.
I immediately joined a breeder's bird club near me; as a matter of fact I joined about seven bird clubs in Florida. My education was fast in coming. I met wonderful breeders that had been breeding for many years. These were people willing to share many experiences, good and bad. I was introduced to some of the most caring people in the world. The more I learned the more I wanted to learn. I went to any and all conferences that I could possibly afford. I was on my way.
For some mysterious reason, I never ventured from the continent of the species that captured my soul. I remained interested only in the African Parrots. In the back of my mind I knew, I would someday, know these wondrous creatures as if I were part of them. I would understand their breeding, their needs, their nurturing, their chicks, and their social structure. My love began in January of 1984 and I am still learning today. Every day they show me something new, something exciting.
The first few years that we maintained an aviary, we had no real business name. We had decided we didn't want the standard, Jean's Aviary, or Tim and Jean's Aviary, or even the T&J Aviary. One evening after a few years of breeding professionally, a gentleman from N. Carolina called to ask about hawk-headed parrots (at that time I had two breeding pair) and we talked for a few hours. Upon closing he asked if I specialized in hawk-heads. I immediately answered, "No, I do the African parrots." He then replied, "You're in Florida! Now I know who you are, we all call you the African Queen." And so it began....
Jean Pattison, known as "The African Queen," currently lives in Lakeland, Florida, where she and her husband Tim operate their breeding facility. In 1984 she acquired a pair of Senegals, from there her fascination with African parrots grew to include the African Grey, and then naturally more Poicephalus. Her studied observation of the Senegals taught her about behavior and social patterns that she was able to apply to other African parrots in her care. Through the years their collection has grown to over 100 pairs of African parrots, including an impressive collection of the Un-cape parrot. Jean was one of the founding members of the Florida Federation of Aviculture. Inc., as well as the Organization of Professional Aviculturists.
Jean has lectured at the national conference of the American Federation of Aviculture (AFA), and at AVES International in Australia, the Midwest Avian Research Expo, the Bird Clubs of Virginia national convention and many other national conventions and symposiums, and bird clubs throughout the United States. She is past President of the African Parrot Society, and has written for many of the major publications, such as Bird Talk, Birds USA, Bird Breeder, Pet Product News, and the AFA Watchbird.
She has helped field researchers, and conservation groups, with her knowledge of the habits, and husbandry of the African Parrots. Authors have consulted with her when writing books on African Parrots, and she has co-authored a book, "African Parrots," with Rick Jordan that is an overview of African parrots.