| Areas of Expertise
Avian Behaviorist & Exotic Animal Trainer, Wildlife Educator
| Favorite Quote
“There is magic in boldness.”
– Dr. Chris Ryan
A professional bird trainer, falconer, and student of biology for over 20 years, my first interest in animal behavior began with the documentation of the family cat’s daily habits, including hours of cat naps, on my dad’s camcorder as practice for becoming a National Geographic researcher. I have worked with and consulted for zoos and educational facilities to help bring adventurous and intimate animal encounters to guests all over the world. In 2013, I left the comfort of a predictable paycheck and started Avian Behavior International, a bird training and education organization. With ABI, I have stayed with the Waurá tribe in the backwaters of the Amazon, flown birds through the Rainbow Arch of Lake Powell, and camped by the Russian River with nineteen birds to accomplish my goals. The ABI training ranch sits on 20 acres in Southern California, where I can share my passion with guests to watch and interact with the beauty of birds in flight. With interactive experiences and classes, we help spread ideas for citizens to take actionable steps to protect natural resources and raises awareness and funds for critical conservation challenges around the planet.
| An accomplished falconer, Hillary can be seen here swinging a lure.
Bachelor’s in Biological Sciences
| Challenges Experienced
I started out with a business partner who had no idea how to run a business and would think of a new goal and direction each week. After I uncovered a series of actions that didn’t match my values, I asked him to leave, and he tried to destroy the business in his wake. It took a backbone of steel to keep the company alive and steer the business in a new direction just because I thought I needed someone else’s help to run it. With the support of those that saw my vision, I made it through, one day after the next, and came out much stronger for it.
| Emotional Story
My dad was diagnosed with stage four cancer when I was splitting with my business partner and moving the company in a different direction. I had no staff, my former client refused to pay the company the final contract installment for work completed, and I didn’t have the money to fight them for it. I was barely squeaking by but for the help of my loyal volunteers, friends, and significant other, Andre. I couldn’t even afford the time away from the business and animals to visit my dad save a few days and to be with him when he passed. We held long phone conversations in his last few months as I asked him for business and life advice and always held his opinion as the gold standard. My father was one of the most respected people in business I know, smart, authentic, and filled with integrity. His voice as the foundation for everything in work that I do. Any endeavor I take on must provide a greater good as well as be authentic to who I am and what I believe in. My company exists because of who he is, of that I am sure.
| Conservation Tip
We can help the planet by consuming less. Period. Create a clothes budget for the year and stick to it. Fast fashion adds to the pollution of our air and waterways, with polyester microfibers shedding into washing machines each cycle and ending up in our oceans, working their way up the food chain into many different animals’ bodies. Making fashion choices with clothes that are meant to last year after year can make a huge impact on our environment in so many different ways.
1. Leverage your time and volunteer, intern, attend conferences, seminars, and workshops in your field to learn as much as you can and network others that can be helpful and who you in turn can help.
2. See every opportunity as a learning experience not just to grow your industry specific skills, but a chance to evolve your professional footprint as an employee, coworker, teammate, and individual.
3. Express your gratitude to anyone who shares their time and wisdom to help you along your path. A thoughtful email or written thank you note goes a long way.
| If You Could Be Any Animal, What Would You Be?
An albatross. I love the ocean, traveling, and watching birds soar, and I think it would be an amazing life.
Social: Hillary Hankey, Instagram: @avianbehavior