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Bird Zoo

October 8, 2010

Have you ever been to an Aviary? Let me tell you, it’s a very strange place. Here at Birds and Words, it’s no secret that we love birds. I’m somewhat disturbed to report that I’ve started finding birdy things cute. I’m amassing a collection of bird note books, stickers, calendars, note pads, pencils, not to mention actual ornithological books, which I dip into for crucial kernels of wisdom. Ah well, this blog is all about confessions, right? If I can’t tell YOU about my ever growing collection of bird kitchy paraphernalia, who can I tell?

Last week, in Salt Lake City, my husband and I visited the Tracy Aviary, one of only two free-standing aviaries in the United States! Imagine a zoo with open air cubicles for birds. It seemed like the birds were well cared for, and the staff certainly loves them — they refer to all the birds by name and can go on at great length about their genealogy, circle of friends, etc. The highlight of the aviary was an Andean Condor (Vultur gryphus), an enormous bird whose wingspan measures about 3.2 meters and is the largest after the Albatros. The bird also happens to be one of the ugliest specimens I’ve ever seen in my life! (OK, no comments about the quality of my photographs…)

His head looks a bit like a rhinoceros. But maybe I was delirious due to 38 degree heat. This particular Condor was born in 1959; he lived with his sister in the same fenced-in area until she died of cancer 10 years ago. Apparently condors can live to 70 in (friendly) captivity. Who knew?

I realized something about birds at the Aviary. What I love about bird watching, and what gets me out of bed early on Saturday mornings is precisely the fact that we go out to find birds in nature. I love the chance encounter with a bird, the small miracle of catching a glimpse of a bird through my binoculars. I love putting on my (newish) trail shoes and Tilley Hat (yes, the outfit is totally part of pleasure) and going out in nature. Having the birds right there at your finger tips, ready to greet you really eliminates half the fun and 90% of the excitement. I don’t want birds at my service; I’d much rather have a day of searching and seeing nothing than looking at 50 different species sitting or fluttering behind glass walls or fences. I suppose it’s a good educational tool for children, but it took all the pleasure out actually watching, observing and seeing for real.

That being said, the Flamingos were spectacular, and we left the Aviary in a perfectly good mood.

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