Are you looking for a place where you can feel peace and serenity? How about a cool, shady oasis where you can see amazing animals by your feet, in the air, and on tree branches? You can find all this in the Reid Park Zoo’s Flight Connection Aviary. Sitting on a bench, watching the colorful birds flit about is interesting, relaxing and fun. Learning about them makes the experience even more enjoyable. So, here are just a few of the beautiful creatures in this aviary. Since words alone can’t do them justice, be sure to click on the links to see their images.
Watch your feet! This charming bird may scurry in front of you as you walk the aviary paths. The Crested Partridge is a game bird in the pheasant family, about 10 inches long with a roundish shape and a short tail. The males have a glossy black body with a red crest on the forehead. Females are a lovely moss green with brown wings but no crest. Both birds have red patches around the eyes and distinctive red legs and feet. These ground dwellers from the tropical forests in southeast Asia prefer to walk or run. They spend their days foraging for food and may perch on low-hanging branches at night.
The Crested Partridge mates for life. Their dome-shaped ground nest is covered with twigs and leaves, with the female completely hidden inside for about 18 days while incubating her 6-8 eggs. The Crested Partridge is usually seen in a covey of several birds, which can get a little noisy. They have two calls-a quiet one to communicate with each other and a loud warning sound. Watching these delightful creatures interact with each other is really entertaining. Remember – their red legs make them easy to spot and identify.
Another eye-catching bird in the Flight Connection is the red, black and white Bearded Barbet. It is the largest of the barbet species (10 inch), a round bird with a short neck, large head, and short-ish tail. The strong, short legs have two toes facing frontward and two toes facing backwards, helping the barbet cling to the sides of trees. Males and females look alike. Barbets are closely related to toucans. The tooth-edged bills of toucans are similar to the Bearded Barbet’s large, thick yellow bill. A clump of bristles (exposed feather shafts) at the base of the bill gives this species its name. The saw-like edges make cutting off fruit stems an easy task. The bill is also useful in digging nesting holes in rotten trees. The Bearded Barbet is common in West Africa, where they live in wooded areas and are primarily fruit eaters – with figs a favorite. They are important seed dispersers, as their undigested seeds are spread about the land. Like a distant cousin, the woodpecker, these birds lay eggs in a nest built in the cavity of a tree. The two eggs are incubated for about 14 days with both parents caring for them. The Bearded Barbet’s call is an unmistakable SCRAWK!, often slowly repeated. The next time you’re at Reid Park Zoo, be sure to visit the Flight Connection Aviary with your ears open! You’re sure to spy a Bearded Barbet.
This bird just might take your breath away! The brightly-colored Violet Turaco is an African species and a fruit eater. It is large, about 18 inches long. Named for its brilliant glossy violet color, its forehead is yellow with a bright red bill and eye ring. Social birds, they live in large flocks in the forests of western Africa. Because they live in dense forests, the Violet Turaco doesn’t need to be a great flyer. Using their long tails for balance, they bounce from branch to branch in the treetops, foraging for food. During courtship, the male shows off his brilliant colors by fluttering his wings to attract a mate. A flat platform nest built with twigs and sticks will be assembled high up in a tree. Male and female take turns sitting on the two or three eggs and will also share in feeding the young. The Violet Turaco has a loud COOROO call. Keep an eye out for these magnificent birds and enjoy!
White Headed Buffalo Weaver
Hey! Check out my nest! This could be a male weaver calling out to a prospective mate. He builds a fabulous nest and the females then choose a partner based on his construction skills. What a way to impress your mate!
The White Headed Buffalo Weaver is common throughout the savannas and dry brush in eastern Africa, eating seeds, small insects and small fruit. The word buffalo comes from its habit of following the African buffalo for insects that hitch a ride on their skin. This is a smallish bird of about 7 inches in length. They are mostly white with black wings and tail and an orange rump. It is difficult to tell the males from the females as their appearance and size is similar.
The White Headed Buffalo Weavers are related to finches and are usually seen in small flocks. They lay 3-5 eggs in their elaborate nests and incubate them for 14 days. Come and see if you can find these birds in the aviary. They are bold little birds and just may start looking for insects around your feet! This is only a small sampling of the birds you’ll see at Reid Park Zoo. The South America Loop also has its own aviary, with many stunning species. But there will be more, soon. The Reid Park Zoo’s Pathway to Asia expansion will include the “Wings of Wonder” aviary, where you’ll be able to find even more colorful, sociable, and beautiful birds. The aviaries are cool in the summer and a great place to get out of our summer heat. Come in, turn off your phone, and h enjoy the quiet.