Wings of Wonder Aviary 

The Wings of Wonder Aviary in the Reid Park Zoo expansion has big plans – plans to bring us an array of interesting and beautiful birds in all sizes, in shady, tree-filled habitats with opportunities to just sit, meander, de-stress,  and observe, or if you’re in the mood, to feed some of the species!

Sit Back or Interact!

There are far too many species slated to elaborate on here, but let’s start with a list of birds that are in the plans at present.   Of course, depending on construction time and species availability, this list may change a bit by the time we can visit the Pathway to Asia – but here goes!

The Walk-Through Aviary

 Here are images of just a few of the birds that you’ll see in the Wings of Wonder Aviary – and they will NOT be hard to locate (you’ll see why in a minute).    In anticipation of the WOW Aviary grand opening,  we present some amazing beauty. Click on the links below!

DOVES:  In your back yard, you’re probably used to seeing White Wing Doves and Mourning Doves, whose subdued coloration provides great camouflage in the desert.   But in the Wings of Wonder, you’ll find some of their extremely colorful relatives.

  1.   Luzon Bleeding Heart Dove – see an image here
  2.   Another dove,  The Beautiful Fruit Dove – take a look
  3.   Dove #3, the Emerald Dove

PIGEONS:   The doves’ larger cousins are NOT to be outdone by the beautiful species above!   The Wings of Wonder will also feature some almost unbelievably gorgeous pigeons as well, such as the

  1. Nicobar Pigeon, with its stunning colors and distinctive “collar”
  2. Blue Crowned Pigeon,  which will be easy to spot with its vivid color and showy crown

Go BIG:  Are you in the mood for something larger?   How about seeing 

  1. A Peacock Pheasant, which can spread its tail feathers just like a peacock does!
  2. A Tragopan, another type of pheasant…these two just don’t much resemble those Thanksgiving centerpieces!

Want to get closer?

The Reid Park Zoo expansion is also poised to offer us a wonderful, interactive experience feeding some amazing feathered friends in the Interactive portion of the Aviary.  Researchers are now able to document the benefits we get from all levels of interacting with wildlife, and these can include improved mood, lowered blood pressure, reduced stress levels, and so on.  So come on in to the Wings of Wonder!

In a zoo setting, provided that the conditions around this interaction are safe and positive for both humans and the animals involved, as they will be in the Pathway to Asia,  the chance to actually offer food to birds in the Wings of Wonder Aviary will not only contribute to the well-being of the birds.  According to researcher Mark James Learmonth of the Animal Welfare Science Centre in Australia, such human/wildlife interactions can “potentially be a very powerful tool to increase public awareness, engagement, and support for conservation practices…”   What a win-win!  

Which birds might approach us for a treat?

Plenty of them!   Here’s information about just a few of the species who will waiting to meet you in the Interactive Wings of Wonder Aviary.

The Crested Wood Partridge:  This well-rounded beauty is related to the pheasants you saw above….and though they can fly in a pinch (sort of like our local Gambel’s Quail), they most often dash around on their stumpy little legs.   They forage for seeds, small fruits, and sometimes snails – and they’re clever about it – they wait under trees that are full of monkeys, flying foxes, or other birds, who are not the tidiest of nature’s diners.   In other words, great edible bounty rains down from those trees, and the Crested Wood Partridges are glad to devour whatever falls their way!

The Vietnamese Pheasant:   This type of pheasant was only discovered in 1964 in Vietnam, and is one of the rarest kinds of pheasant you’ll encounter.   Their populations are small and they are endangered by hunting, deforestation, and even the pet trade.   They like to eat berries, seeds, and leaves, and even the occasional insect.

The Red-Whiskered Bulbul:   Time to look up in the trees!   The Red-Whiskered Bulbul is about 7 inches long and can be easily identified by their pointy black crests and their red face patches.  Their tails are long and brown, and in the wilds of China and Southeast Asia, they like to eat fruit, nectar, and insects.  We’re not sure exactly what you’ll be able to feed them in the Wings of Wonder, but we’re guessing it won’t be the bugs!   As for fruit, it needs to be fairly over-ripe in order for their small beaks to puncture the skin.

The Red Avadavat:  You may never have heard of them, even if somebody uses their other common names, the Red Munia, or the Strawberry Finch.  Just as they have many names – groups of them can also be called by a variety of nouns – a “charm,” a “company,” or a “trembling!”  These birds are not very big, about 3-4 inches long, and a lot of the time they have pretty nondescript brownish feathers.  But during breeding season, the males change to a beautiful scarlet color with lots of distinctive white dots, and the females sport a lovely yellow breast.  They just adore devouring insects, but also will eat sprouted seeds.

The Pekin Robin:  This little beauty is actually another finch, and is sometimes called a Red-billed Leiothrix, or a Japanese Nightingale.   They are about 6 inches long and are usually olive green, but as you can see from the image above, also display many other colors – yellow, orange, red, black, and blue-gray.   They sing beautifully, but in the wild are quite secretive.  They are omnivores, and native to India, Bhutan, Nepal, and Burma.   However,  they’re obviously really popular, because they were introduced in the Hawaiian Islands in the early 1900s and many still live on Oahu.  They have also been successfully introduced in France, Japan, and Spain.  And soon, here in Tucson!  

These are just a sampling of the amazing creatures that you’ll be able to see and interact with in the Wings of Wonder!   So come to visit the Reid Park Zoo’s Pathway to Asia if you’d like to be inspired and support conservation.    Visit the Aviary especially if you just want to chill out, or if you’d like to take amazing photographs, if you’d like to learn, or even if you’d like to feed some of the most beautiful birds anywhere.   See you there! 

Excellence and innovation are hallmarks of the care that the animals at the Reid Park Zoo receive every day from the Zoo’s Animal Care Staff. Whether it’s training a rhinoceros to allow a staff member to draw blood for the animal’s health and veterinary care, inventing a life-saving technique to treat a congenital kidney problem in an African lion, or hundreds of things staff members do to enhance the animals’ lives, the Zoo and its staff are guided by deep care, excellence, and innovation. 

A good example of excellence and innovation in the animals’ care is what is called “enrichment.” Enrichment refers to objects or activities that bring out an animal’s natural behaviors and cognitive engagement – often, the animal’s puzzle-solving skills. Just like in people, cognitive engagement and physical activity are important for keeping the Zoo’s animals mentally and physically robust. Zoo animals can’t join book clubs, play video games, or do crossword puzzles, but they can be stimulated to explore. For instance, novel scents dotted about in a habitat are very stimulating for an animal whose species naturally depends on an acute sense of smell. Objects that an animal can safely bat around or pounce on or pry open to get a treat are favorite examples of enrichment. Enrichment can even be as straightforward as rearranging permanent structures in an animal’s habitat. These kinds of things stimulate the animals’ senses and brains, and they engage the animals’ natural behaviors. Enrichment is so important to the health of the animals that the Reid Park Zoo has a staff member whose whole job is to oversee animal enrichment for the Zoo’s animals – a sort of Animal Enrichment Czar! (The real title is Animal Welfare Specialist.) 

Reid Park Zoo recently unveiled an exciting new invention for animal enrichment! You can look for it the next time you visit the Zoo. This new device is the fruit of a new collaboration between the Zoo’s “Animal Enrichment Czar” and a team of engineering students at the University of Arizona. Reid Park Zoo and the UA already have long-standing, productive collaborations in Animal Science and more recently in veterinary medicine, and this collaboration with Engineering adds a whole new dimension to those. 

The new enrichment device is getting its first use with Bella, Reid Park Zoo’s jaguar. If you haven’t seen Bella yet, her name suits her perfectly – she is absolutely beautiful! Bella already receives many types of enrichment. She has tree trunks to climb on, a pool of water to plunge into, and she is periodically given an oxtail dangling from a tree trunk high above the ground. For the oxtail, Bella needs to use her sharp vision to spot the treat and then has to figure out whether to use her impressive jumping skill or her climbing skill as the best way to get at the treat. 

What does the new enrichment device add to this? The new device has two modules, both placed just outside Bella’s habitat. The first module uses an electronic sensor to detect Bella’s presence nearby. When she approaches the sensor, the first module triggers the activation of a second module. The second module is where the fun comes in! One secondary module has a blower with a nylon sock-puppet attached to it. When the blower turns on, the sock-puppet pops up a few feet high and begins flopping and waving around. Visually tracking moving objects is an essential behavior for jaguars in the wild, and this dancing sock-puppet fully engages that behavior in Bella – she visually locks on to the puppet and follows every move. Another secondary module that the UA students designed and fabricated blows bubbles into Bella’s habitat. Bella loves the bubbles! 

You might have seen this exciting device for animal enrichment when it was featured on the local TV news. The UA Engineering students who designed and built the new device – who are referred to as “Team 21034” – won $5,000 and the Raytheon Award for Overall Design in this year’s Craig M. Berge Design Day Competition at the UA. The UA students, the Zoo, and Bella all won here! 

A great feature of this new enrichment device is that Bella can control the delivery of the enrichment herself, by figuring out how to move in ways that activate the device. It makes her overall environment more challenging and more fun. Another nice aspect is that the device is small enough to be easily moved to other animals’ habitats. The system also allows the creation of new secondary modules that could be tailored to the particular skills and behaviors of other Zoo animals, perhaps to make a sound or show a visual display, for example. Imagine the fun the Zoo’s animal care staff will have in coming up with different secondary modules for the different animals! And through its membership in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, Reid Park Zoo may be able to share the design of the new device with other AZA-accredited zoos around the country. 

Excellence and innovation – hallmarks of the Reid Park Zoo and the guiding principles for the design of the new Reid Park Zoo expansion!