Building an aviary was one of the best things I could have ever provided to my birds and those birds that I have brought home to train. Four years ago that was just an image in my mind. A few months later it was a reality.
I thought about different ideas in how to build it and I had to keep my neighbors in mind while designing it. I had to make it as least obstructive to them. If
they didn’t like it, I’m sure I would have had to take it down. Metal fencing was out. I don’t think that would be too appealing to the eye so I decided on a black netting. I still don’t regret this choice. It wasn’t intrusive to the eye from the neighbor’s point of view, and actually many of my neighbors enjoyed watching the birds fly, run, and interact in the aviary.
As you can see from the photo on the right, the birds could fly out the back door or window and right into the back yard which was their aviary. My husband and I, friends, and family could all sit outside in the aviary with the birds also and interact, relax, and have cook outs, which we did often.
As you can see in the video below, the aviary allowed the birds so much freedom and decision-making opportunities. You can also see how much the birds really enjoyed it. In the summer, in the aviary is where all the birds took their showers. In this video you will see Rocky, my Moluccan Cockatoo on the ground begging for a shower, Murray my Greenwing Macaw wanting in on the action, and Rico taking the opportunity to dive-bomb Murray.
I think back about the birds that have experienced this aviary. With each experience and interaction with each bird, they gave the aviary the personality that it
has. In this aviary is where Rico learned to maneuver his flight skills and oh did he do that well. He learned how to dive bomb the other birds. He learned to fly to the opening above the gate to see what the neighbors were doing next door, hence one of his many nick names “Rico Kravits”, after Gladys Kravitz from Bewitched. Then he would fly to the other side and watch the neighbors having a cook out in their back yard. Here he also flew and interacted with the grackles. Oh what a learning awesome, observational learning experience that was, but for another post. Watching Rico fly and maneuver around the aviary often brought butterflies to my stomach. I would sit and stare in awe as he passed by yelling “Wooo hooo!” as he would look to make sure I was watching. Oh I was.
Then there is Rocky, the Moluccan Cockatoo. Rocky loved the aviary. He loved running through the aviary, and through the grass. He loved playing fetch, eating all of the flowers I brought home, hanging out on the backs of the patio chairs, and serenading the neighbors. I remember one time when a door to door sales woman chose to intrude into our aviary because we wouldn’t answer the front door. I was shocked and very upset by this. Coming into our aviary means just as much if not more to us than entering our house and here this uninvited intruder was now rudely occupying our time and upsetting our birds. Rocky was on the ground running and yelling “Doo Doo Doo Doo”, hence his nick name “Rocky Doo Doo”. He kept trying to run toward the sales woman and I was preventing him from doing this by continually standing in front of him. The more I did this, the more determined Rocky was in getting around me. She wouldn’t leave at my continually requesting her to do so. Finally
she asked me if “that bird” was playing and I responded “He’s not playing at all”. She laughed and said “Its so cute, what is he trying to do.” I responded with “He’s trying to get to you.” “Oh” she said. “He wants to play.” My disturbance was now turning into anger and I told her Rocky would definitely attack her. She ignored me once again when I asked her to leave. With my building frustration I stepped aside and away Rocky went running full force, crest up, screaming “Doo Doo Doo” and away went running the sales woman. I completely positively punished the behavior of the sales woman standing in my back yard. After she went running out of the aviary yelling not so nice things at me, I turned and looked at my husband with a look on my face like “Was I wrong?”. He looked at me with just as much amazement at the whole situation that had just happened and we both starting laughing uncontrollably.
More than anything, Rocky loves his showers. Enjoying a shower is a behavior Rocky had to learn and I had to train. We did a lot of this in the aviary and at Rocky’s pace. Watching Rocky take a shower is now a hilarious experience.
Murray, my Greenwing Macaw, loves the natural sunlight the aviary offers. He’s a bird that is so content with
visual enrichment and the aviary was full of visual enrichment. He enjoyed his showers in the aviary, as seen in the video above. He then loves to dry in the sun.
I often lay down in the grass in the aviary and Murray will climb down any stand he is on and waddle over to where I am. He loves to climb all over me and say “Hello” because I laugh so hard. He then tries sticking his tongue in my ear which causes me to laugh even harder. He’s my dog of birds and a very loyal companion. Murray is not a good flier at all. This is a behavior I wish he knew because his lack of ability in making quick transportation choices shows in his over reaction to novel sounds. Otherwise, when Murray hears a sound he’s never heard before, his fear responses grow with time because he doesn’t have the option of flight to escape. I often encourage Murray to flap his wings while hanging from objects. The more he does this, the more I see him using his wings to gain momentum in rocking a swing to get from one place to another. If I could give Murray anything, I would give him flight. This is a behavior he and I can work on building.
Then there’s Einstein, Nature’s Nursery’s program screech-owl. The aviary provided so much room for him to exercise, interact, hunt, play, and it provided a vast environment from which to learn. In the summers I used to sit outside in the aviary with Einstein at night and just watch him fly. We would do a little recall training, but he really enjoyed checking out everything in the aviary.
The evenings would begin with Einstein hanging out on the boings or in the support beams of the patio umbrella. As night would fall, Einstein would start exploring. I would turn on the lights in the aviary to attract the bugs. Large bugs attracted Einstein and it was so absolutely cool to watch him hunt.
If Einstein wanted your attention, he would fly by and buzz your head with his wings. You couldn’t hear him fly but if you looked around your immediate environment, it was almost a guarantee he would be sitting within reach. This usually meant it was time for another training goodie. 😉
And then there’s Pete. Pete is also a program bird of Nature’s Nursery’s. Pete taught me so much in learning from a bird and in turn I tried my hardest to enrich his environment. There was several hours of training that needed to be done before introducing him to the aviary, but it was done and what a pay off that was for Pete. Pete loved sunbathing so that is where we began. I had to slowly introduce him to the aviary as you see in the photo to the right. I would open the window so he could start familiarizing himself with the sounds the aviary had to offer. It wasn’t long before I could open the screen and go outside and ask him to hop to my hand. Soon after that I would pull up a chair, take out a book and Pete would be sunbathing on my shoulder, my hand or my lap. He
started hopping around my feet, flying to perches in close proximity, and that is where I saw him ant for the first time. Wow, what a learning experience he provided to me. I had Pete recall trained in the house, so it didn’t take much to ask that behavior from a different environment.
There is nothing I can offer to Pete that would be better than what his natural and intended life in the wild could give him. Pete is with us because he has a deformed foot. I trained him many behaviors to get him ready to be an avian ambassador, (teaching the public the importance of his species in nature) for a local wildlife rehabilitation center called Nature’s Nursery.
I only had one video of a very special owl. It was a young Great Horned Owl’s first small flights. It was a great video watching Sidney experimenting with her wings and making short hops lofting around the aviary. I wish I had kept that video but it is a memory to be cherished. I did manage to find a few photos I had taken the same day. To read more about the story of Sidney, you can find it here on my blog under, “Sidney, The Great Horned Teacher.”
Often, when Sidney was in the aviary, she was hard to spot. She was a huge owl but one that blended in well
with the natural surroundings. When watching an owl observe its environment, one can get lost in how they gaze. You can take the owl out of the woods, but you can’t take the woods out of the owl was a line similar to what I had read in Bernd Heidrich’s “One Man’s Owl”. “How absolutely true”, I thought as I have seen the look in the owl, especially the Great Horn’s that Bernd was describing. There is so much more to them than human capacity can even begin to understand. Watch one and you’ll understand this also.
So why all of this talk about the aviary and why all the talk in past tense? I write this with a pit in my stomach and it was a bit tough to go back and review through videos and bird experiences in the aviary. Less than a week ago, our part of Ohio was struck with a heavy ice storm. The ice was beautiful and very dangerous. Our area was hit pretty hard and trees came crashing down for days due to the weight of the ice. As you may begin to see where this post is going, our aviary also crashed to the ground. I will say though, that the aviary came crashing down long after the majority of the 100′ tall trees. The aviary was a real trooper and hung in through three brutal winters and several ice storms. This ice storm was the worst we had seen in years.
I love the snow and always welcome it. Well, along with the snow comes
the chance of the other white stuff. Every time I heard ice in the forecast, I would cringe. This time I had every right to cringe. It was a doozie. With every ice storm that passes through here, I keep my fingers crossed for the aviary.
The ice started at 10:30 pm the evening of February 20th, 2011. At one point I had to go open the blinds because it sounded like someone was tapping on our front window. That’s how hard the ice was coming down. The next morning, these photos were some of the images I was able to capture. The netting is black, which is hard to see under all of the ice.
The aviary stood strong the whole next day. I took photo after photo, because even as dangerous as ice can be, it is beautiful. The trees clinked with the slightest of wind, though the aviary didn’t budge. I went out that evening and scraped off the icicles that I could reach. After about fifteen minutes of doing so, I realized this was out of my hands. I put down the shovel and wished it well as I turned and stared at it glistening in the evening night. That night at midnight I heard a eerie and most horrible noise. It was one that made you want to duck by sheer reflex. It sounded as though our roof was sliding right off of our house. After that first reflex, I jumped out of my chair and went running to that back window that Pete used to perch in and stare out over the aviary. I didn’t even want to open the blinds. I did and was still shocked to see what I saw. I saw a completely different view of the aviary. It had caved in under the weight of the ice. The support cables busted and the world came crashing in. It was hard to see that night but it was clear that I had an obstacle free view of the midnight sky, a view I hadn’t seen in almost four years.
I snapped the two photos below the next morning. It looks as though two of the main support cables busted under the weight of the ice. You can see in the photo on the left that the netting was torn in the center in at least two different spots. These tears are not along the seams either. The netting is rested on all of the perches in the aviary. Above each perch, the netting sliced open there also.
The iced netting is so heavy we can’t move it. Until the ice melts, we can’t get into our back yard to see how bad the damage really is. Since the aviary has fallen, we have received 6.5″ more of snow and more on the way. There were plans in place to bring home yet another bird of prey to start training in the aviary to make the most of the remaining winter months. It seems the harder I’ve tried in bringing this bird home, the more obstacles have gotten in my way. This obstacle is a big one. I can look at it as an obstacle or the opportunity to improve the aviary. I can look back at the photos and videos over the last four years and let it weigh heavy on my heart or take this opportunity to make improvements for future memories. I chose the latter.
So really, all good things must come to an end? Hmmm, I think I’m going to challenge this one.