A bird magazine's final chirp in print
Fans of Bird Talk are squawking as the magazine folds its print edition and goes digital. In place of the print version, subscribers will be sent copies of Dog Fancy.
The New York Times
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For three decades, fans of Bird Talk magazine have dutifully collected issues for their articles and centerfolds. But the September issue is the last that will appear in print, leaving disappointed subscribers with BirdChannel.com, the magazine's related site, as the only way to read the publication's information on all types of birds — from love birds to macaws and cockatoos.
"This is the end of an era, a sad statement on the current state of the country, and a significant loss to all current and future parrot owners," said Linda LaFleur, a Bird Talk subscriber for more than 20 years, whose parrots have appeared on Bird Talk's covers and as centerfolds.
What has riled up Bird Talk subscribers even more is that the magazine's publisher plans to send them copies of Dog Fancy in its place.
"People who chose to subscribe to Bird Talk don't want Dog Fancy," said Dr. Anthony Pilny, an occasional Bird Talk contributor and a veterinarian at the Center for Avian and Exotic Medicine on the Upper West Side. The magazine is so popular among his clients that bird owners often swiped them from the waiting room.
"We don't see or treat dogs or cats in the hospital," he said. "I don't think we would put a journal of dogs and cats in the waiting room."
Lisa MacDonald, a spokeswoman for BowTie Inc., which owns Bird Talk and Dog Fancy, said Dog Fancy was being sent because "when looking at past survey and poll information for our subscribers to see what other pets were in the home, dogs were far and away the most common 'other' pet."
Bird Talk's fans recognize that the magazine has been struggling. Over the squawks of her nine parrots, Susan Chamberlain, a 28-year columnist with Bird Talk, said that in the early 1990s issues were as thick as 172 pages. A recent issue barely had 50 pages.
Chamberlain said she would continue to contribute articles. But she fears readers are less likely to read online. "People liked to hold the magazine in their hands," she said.
Daniel Kopulos, owner of the pet shop Fauna on the Upper West Side, said that while he kept old copies of Bird Talk, he felt in recent years that it offered less information about species and "more of people telling their individual stories or comedic adventures with their pet bird."
The decision to shut down print publication appears to have been sudden. Pilny said that he had filed a commissioned article to a Bird Talk editor in early July about the most common reasons pet cockatoos visit the vet. He still does not know whether it will run online.
Lorelei Tibbetts, the hospital manager who works with Pilny, said that she had learned about the switch when a Bow Tie advertising representative contacted her about moving the practice's advertisements to Reptiles Magazine. She agreed, but said the practice treats far more birds than reptiles.
There can be some bright side to switching to digital. Barbara Heidenreich, editor of Good Bird Magazine, said that since she made her publication online only in 2010, she has been able to experiment more with video and audio clips, which are ideal for bird stories. She also said that in the past when she advertised her animal training business in Bird Talk, she never got any actual business.
It's still unclear what Pilny will do with copies of Dog Fancy. "We would probably just donate it to a dog or cat hospital waiting room," he said.