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Buffalo's 'bird nerd'

Early on a Saturday morning, Dr. Laura Wade is already hard at work, tending to a rabbit that’s recovering from an amputation. At her Clarence-based veterinary practice, Specialized Care for Avian & Exotic Pets, Wade and her staff treat birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish and small mammals — everything from a tiny hamster to a pair of 125-pound emus Wade once wrangled during a house call. She’s performed surgery on ferrets and checkups on a flock of macaws, and through her boarding service, provides a home away from home for chameleons, iguanas and cockatiels alike.

"Yesterday, a woman came in with her rabbit that had some problems, and she didn’t know how it was going to go," Wade said. "We did some dental work, her rabbit is doing great and they’re just over-the-top happy. I tear up thinking about it, that I could help that person help her rabbit."

Opened five years ago, Wade’s is the only clinic in the state outside NYC and Westchester that exclusively treats birds and exotic animals. It was a big risk, Wade said, to go out on her own and eliminate the potential client base — and revenue — she might attract from dog and cat owners. The move paid off, however, as her practice attracts clients from hours away for its comprehensive services and state-of-the-art facilities.

"In veterinary medicine, there’s so much information out there and it’s progressed so rapidly that it’s hard to stay current," she said. "We’re not just dabbling in it. We want to be the best we can be in this area."

Wade’s reputation as the "bird girl" began as a child. When she and her brother found baby ducklings without a mother, and a pigeon that had fallen from a bridge, they scooped them up, brought them home and raised them. She got her first parrot, Apple, at 11 and, as a Cornell University student, took every opportunity she could to study birds and get involved at the wildlife clinic.

Today, she has three parrots — Pepper, Kelly and Zuri — along with a dog and a few fish, and her car’s license plate proudly displays her passion: BRDNRD (Bird Nerd). A board-certified bird specialist, Wade has consulted on swans at the Buffalo Zoo and a penguin at the Aquarium of Niagara, published dozens of research papers on bird health, and even brought her expertise to the Today Show. Wade and her staff also volunteer their services to assist injured wildlife.

"We treat animals the way we’d want our animals treated — that’s my motto," Wade said. "I’ve had my parrot for 23 years — half my life. The potential to have such a long relationship is great. Ducks are really cool animals, pigeons are amazing and rats are amazing too. There are such unique relationships you can have with them."

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