Thomas Hofman, Senior I Aviculturist

Thomas Hofman, Senior I Aviculturist

I’ve toured SeaWorld San Diego for 17 years now, and feel as if I’ve assumed as many job titles during that tenure. Despite all the sundry work—whether sweeping spent popcorn hulls in Shamu Stadium, or filing away job applications in Human Resources—I’ve most importantly been an Aviculturist. 12 years now, out of the 17.

‘Aviculturist’ is a fancy job title. The word alone will score you some extra points in ‘Words With Friends.’ But—boil away all the Latin verbiage—the job title simply means that I grow birds for a living. Presently, I grow penguins.

When I was in kindergarten, I presented an issue of the San Diego Zoo’s Zoonooz magazine as my ‘show & tell.’ The cover featured SeaWorld San Diego’s very first emperor penguin chick (it was a significant hatch—the first of its kind anywhere—which is why even the Zoo was announcing SeaWorld’s success). I said, with full five-year old muster: “THIS is my favorite animal.” Some things don’t change. I still love penguins. In my now-long career of raising all manners of feathered things--everything from flamingos to fowl--I’m happy to say my daily existence involves a menagerie of rather rambunctious penguins. Clownish macaronis, regal emperors: one can’t have a bad day when its “peopled” with such amazing animals.

So what’s it like on this side of the Penguin Encounter glass—a place where it snows every day in an improbably air-conditioned room? I joined the SeaWorld Blog Team in order to tell you. For it’s a unique place. I’ll tell you about the cold, the bundled-up aviculturists, the sounds, the smells and—of course—the birds who could thaw even the coldest of hearts.

If not trundling through the Penguin Encounter snow, you can probably find me in front of a range-top, slinging a sauté pan. In fact, between my hours with birds and my hours cooking in the kitchen, it’s amusing to think how much my life revolves around the simple, inimitable egg.

Assisting in the kitchen is my sometimes sous chef but otherwise constant companion: my four year-old, Cayden. I’m a proud card-carrying, park-going, exhausted-but-happy parent. My wife and I enjoy our little family, and enjoy our respective work taking care of all things knee-height (she’s a teacher, I’m a zookeeper).