I admit it – some bird exhibits at zoos don’t excite me at all. I don’t rush to the bird section of a zoo as soon as I arrive, and I certainly don’t linger around that section once I have come upon it. Don’t get me wrong, I love birds and enjoy the huge variety that visit my home regularly. But when it comes to zoos, well that’s a different story.
|Bald Eagle in its aviary at the Bronx Zoo|
Zoos have come a long way in the last 50 years. Huge advancements in animal welfare has ensured the improvement of enclosures immeasurably both in size and look, yet when I visit the bird section in some zoos it’s like nothing has changed at all. I don’t mean that these birds are being mistreated or even housed incorrectly. I mean it’s just boring – after seeing the tenth aviary that looks the same as the last nine. All ten with their strategically placed dead branches acting as perches, where two or three equally uninterested birds sit motionless staring right back at me. Frankly I’m ready to move on. Why? Because today I expect more from zoos!
|Bird spotter cards at Central Park Zoo’s impressive rainforest enclosure|
|A Scarlet Ibis at the Central Park Zoo|
So no, of course birds aren’t boring – but yes in some cases I believe their enclosures are. Birds are social, complex, smart animals that deserve to be housed in enclosures that bring those traits out, and in turn give us the opportunity to see them. These type of enclosures are also better environments for the birds. I have seen some fantastic examples of enclosures that showcase birds at their best at many zoos, and yet some shocking examples at those same zoos. The Australian Wetlands enclosure at Perth Zoo in Western Australia, is a great example of both ground dwelling and tree dwelling birds living together in a large netted enclosure representing several environs. Both the Bronx Zoo and Central Park Zoo, in New York, have enclosures that don’t just house birds but also incorporate reptiles and mammals from specific habitats making for a natural enclosure that looks great and also helps in the zoos animal enrichment programs.
|A couple of beautiful Long–Tailed Glossy Starlings in the Central Park Zoos rainforest enclosure|
Of course not every bird is suited to these enclosures, especially birds of prey like eagles and owls, but every bird deserves to be housed in a large natural enclosure that represents their own habitat. Birds are not boring so zoos should stop putting them in boring enclosures, both the birds and the people who come to see them deserve better.
|Another impressive enclosure at Central Park Zoo|
On a slightly different note, a recent study by the British Trust for Ornithology has suggested that over 100 million birds fly into windows every year in the United Kingdom and a third of these feathered friends die. After you have digested the magnitude of that figure, it’s interesting to note how zoos stop captive birds flying into windows in some of their enclosures. Vertical strips are placed on some windows, but another way to stop birds from flying into windows is smearing soap all over the windows as shown below at the Bronx Zoo. So if you have random birds flying into your windows – soap is a great solution!