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Harewood bird garden

How the Victorian era influenced Harewood Bird Garden

Harewood House in Yorkshire has a bird garden and farm

This year, Harewood House and grounds are taking a closer look at the Victorian era inspired by ITV’s period drama Victoria, which used Harewood as a major location. Although when the young Princess Victoria visited Harewood in 1835, the Bird Garden had not yet been built, (opening some 135 years later!), the era still had a major influence on the zoo you can see today.

It was during this period that animal collections and scientific study of the natural world began to develop. Zoological collections in Britain were beginning to evolve with menageries of species kept for display and travelling circuses full of dangerous and exotic animals becoming more common place.

The Zoological Society of London (ZSL) was founded in 1826, shortly before Victoria’s coronation (1837 – 1901). As a leader in the field, ZSL’s aim was to promote the study of animals and their ecology, an ambition which remains at the heart of zoological collections today. London Zoo officially opened its gates to the public in 1828, giving people the opportunity see animals from across the world and learn more about exotic species.

The Victorians were pioneering in promoting research, discovery and conservation of the natural world and organisations founded at the time are still of great importance and relevance today. In the later part of Victoria’s reign, the Plumage League was founded (1889) by Emily Williamson, to combat the killing of birds to use their feathers as fashion accessories. She later joined forces with the Fur and Feather League (1891) to create the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), now a leading light in avian conservation across the world.

The era saw unparalleled developments in our understanding of the natural world with great naturalists such as Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace making discoveries that would fundamentally change how we perceive the world around us.

Since 1970, the Bird Garden at Harewood has promoted an understanding of birds and their environment through conservation, preservation and education, very much as the pioneering zoologists of the Victorian times had done. Today, we host a number of research projects each year with students coming from Askham Bryan College, Leeds Beckett University and University of Leeds among others. Studies on the Chilean flamingos, Humboldt penguins and our wide range of pheasants are either published in journals, ongoing, or in the process of being completed. These projects are all focussed towards improving the husbandry and welfare of the animals in our care. We often receive correspondence from other universities and zoos asking us to assist with projects, the results of which could be put towards the protection of birds and their natural habitats.

Visit the zoo at Harewood House in Yorkshire to see rare birds

We recently welcomed a pair of Omei Shan Liocichla, a small Chinese songbird, to the Bird Garden. This species is listed being vulnerable to extinction in their native habitat and have been incorporated into a European Studbook which will help their ongoing survival.

With this addition, Harewood Bird Garden now partakes in 12 coordinated breeding programmes and species monitors, with 16 of the species kept in the Bird Garden classified as threatened on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Red List of endangered species. These can be seen living with another Chinese species, the silver pheasant in the aviaries below the crane paddocks.

Go to the zoo at Harewood House in Leeds to see rare birds

In the neighbouring aviary we have two new red billed blue magpies from Nepal. These are striking blue birds with long striped tails. They have settled in very well and are currently nesting, with two eggs as I write this.

Visit Harewood House near Harrogate to see palm cockatoos

Another of our European Breeding Programme species is the palm cockatoos. These charismatic black birds with their bright pink cheeks have laid an egg again this year, the third year in succession making them the one of only two breeding pairs in the UK. The last two eggs have been successfully reared and we hope for a repeated performance again this year from our confident young family.

For those of you who want to know more about the Bird Garden and to support our ongoing conservation work, there are great opportunities you can access. From Bird Adoption to penguin feeding or our brand new Junior Keeper Experience launched this season, your support helps us to continue our charitable work, maintain and developing Harewood for the public benefit.

Thank you.

Harewood Volunteer Programme – why not join us?

Now in its 19th year, the Harewood Volunteer Programme continues to go from strength to strength. In 2016, over 18,000 hours were given by volunteers, supporting Harewood House Trust. With over 200 returning volunteers, the programme, and importantly the people who give their time, are an integral part of the charity.

Each year, all Harewood’s dedicated volunteers attend a Welcome Day as Harewood House once again prepares to open its doors on 24th March. The atmosphere is always fantastic as old friends and new gather together to preview what’s in store for the forthcoming year. This year, a focus on our Victorian heritage awaits with rare objects owned by Queen Victoria on display alongside costumes from ITV’s Victoria series.

Of the 200 volunteers who regularly give their time, over half are based in the House where they play a vital role welcoming visitors. They cast a watchful eye over the rooms they are caring for making sure that our visitors, members, coach groups and schools get the best out of their time in the house.

Harewood House in Yorkshire has volunteeres

Mary Cook has volunteered in the house for over 13 years. Mary said, “I started volunteering after a friend recommended Harewood to me. 13 years later, I’m still enjoying meeting visitors and learning from them.

When you start volunteering at Harewood there isn’t a prerequisite to know everything but as you spend time in each room you gain more and more knowledge. After volunteering at Harewood I’m always buzzing and my mind is full of all the interesting people and fellow volunteers I have met that day.”

Volunteers in Yorkshire at Harewood House Farm Experience

Harewood’s Volunteer Programme extends far beyond the House with volunteers giving their time all year round in the Gardens, Bird Garden and Farm Experience. As a licensed zoo, Harewood’s Bird Garden supports students each year through the volunteer opportunities it offers. Many choose to use their time at Harewood to support further education and career ambitions in zoology and animal welfare.

With 120 acres of formal grounds including the Terrace, Himalayan Garden and Walled Garden, help and support from our dedicated band of garden volunteers is invaluable ensuring the grounds and gardens always look at their very best.

Volunteers at Harewood working in the garden

Alan Skedd, is in his 10th season as a Garden Volunteer. Alan said, “Volunteering is useful, productive and satisfying. I get pleasure from seeing how my efforts make a difference and I hope to continue volunteering until age and my health allows”.

Head Gardner, Trevor Nicholson said, “Our garden volunteers play a vital role in maintaining the grounds supporting with weeding, pruning and other tasks which can be endless in a place as large as Harewood.”

Every department from Marketing to Education values the important role that volunteers have in the Trust. At a time when the demand for volunteers is at an all-time high, we know that we are incredibly lucky to have the support and help of so many dedicated people.

To volunteer at Harewood, is to experience one of Yorkshire’s most beautiful houses and landscapes, and to be part of a very special team. Many volunteers return season after season, renewing friendships and deriving satisfaction knowing they have contributed to history of this great house.

If volunteering at Harewood is something that would appeal to you it is not too late to sign up before the House and grounds open on March 24th. There are many opportunities from the Bookshop which is entirely run and managed by volunteers, to the Shuttle Bus which was responsible for transporting over 21,000 people around Harewood in 2016.

To join the scheme or if you have any questions simply contact the Volunteer Coordinator on volunteer@harewood.org or visit our website.

Winter in the Bird Garden and Farm

Harewood House in Yorkshire has a bird garden and farm After a very busy summer season and the late rush of Autumn Glory during the October half term, it has suddenly become very quiet in the Bird Garden and Farm. Zucchini and Zebedee the alpacas have moved to a field on the Estate to give their enclosure on Farm a break. The pygmy goats have also moved with them.

Despite the lack of visitors and Farm animals, the workload has not decreased as we have now entered the busy closed season where we have begun our winter projects. This starts off with clearing all the leaves which have fallen onto the paths, paddocks and even in the penguin pool! No small task.

Several of the aviary sheds and roofs are being repaired or maintained and two aviaries are being completely replaced. We are going to extend the farm animal paddocks onto the South Front which is the large field below the Terrace to allow the farm animals extra room, the rabbits and guinea pigs will be getting new larger outdoor pens and the Chilean flamingos will be getting a new lakeside fence. All in all, there is much work to be done this winter!

If you visited us in the summer holidays you would have met our two young donkeys Lady and Max, who are our two most recent arrivals to the Farm. Since arriving they have settled in well and have become very friendly (although much of that is down to food I suspect!), allowing us to groom them, put them into head collars and lift their front feet for cleaning. We are still working on the back feet!

Another big character you might have already met is Molly our Moluccan cockatoo. Molly is actually a boy, but was originally thought to be female by his owners who very kindly donated him to the Bird Garden earlier in the year. He can be found in the aviary opposite the donkeys where he keeps visitors highly entertained by imitating their laughter and talking to them, as well as showing off his salmon coloured crest.

This year we have had a reasonably good breeding season with another Palm cockatoo chick fledging in October. This species is part of a European wide breeding programme and Harewood Bird Garden is one of the few collections that is successfully breeding them, a fact we are very proud of. It’s down the skill and care that the team and I provide which makes this possible.

The Eurasian eagle owl chicks are now are now the same size as mum and dad and I am currently in the process of finding new homes for the three of them. This species is in fact one of the world’s largest owls with a wing span up to 188cm (6ft 2 in)!

Our pair of brown lorys also laid their first eggs this year and although the chick sadly did not survive it was a promising start for them.

We will have a few new arrivals in the Bird Garden for the upcoming season including two Satyr tragopan, a Nepalese pheasant that will go into our Himalayan aviaries, a female Bali starling which his critically endangered will also be on show. We’re happy to report she has already paired up with our male. I hope to bring in a few more new species in the New Year.

As a licenced zoo, Harewood has a responsibility to support research, education and conservation. Earlier this year we have welcomed two students from Leeds University who carried out a study on the Humboldt penguin colony. They studied the bird’s behaviour and then introduced feeding puzzles containing the penguin’s favourite food (sprats) to assess their foraging capabilities and whether birds learned these skills from one another. They have now finished their study and we are eagerly awaiting the write up and subsequent findings.

Olivier Nesengimana, a Rwandan vet visited Harewood Bird Garden in August and gave our visitors, staff and volunteers an inspiring talk on his project ‘Saving Rwanda’s Crowned Cranes’. We have recently started supporting this project which aims to rescue crowned cranes that have been illegally poached from their native habitat in Rwanda and then rehabilitate them back into the wild. It truly is a fascinating and humbling project. To hear about how one man has made it his mission to conserve and protect this majestic bird is something we will never forget. His drive and determination to motivate the Rwandan people and the authorities is immensely inspiring and we look forward to supporting this project further in 2017.

We hope to team up with Leeds University again and look at other ideas that might help Olivier in his work, such as eco-tourism trips to see wild cranes in Rwanda. Olivier was recently in London for the prestigious Tusk Conservation Awards for which he was a nominee. The event is highly regarded in this field and was attended by the likes of Prince William and Sir David Attenborough. A justified accolade for this project.

A day in the life of the Bird Garden team

Visit Yorkshire to see our Bird Garden

I took on my role as Bird Garden and Farm Experience Manager in December 2015, joining Harewood from Edinburgh Zoo. As manager, it’s my responsibility to oversee the daily running of the Bird Garden and the newly created Farm Experience. It’s an exciting, busy part of Harewood which is at the start of a three year development plan to enhance this much loved part of the grounds.

My day begins at 8am when I arrive at the Bird Garden kitchen with the rest of the team. The Bird Garden is home to 37 different bird species which all have specific dietary needs. From the tall, elegant cranes to the critically endangered Bali starling, we make sure each bird has the right food. We also prepare buckets of chopped carrots, apples, pears and leafy greens for our rabbits, guinea pigs and farm animals.

Once prepared, we head to the Bird Garden and begin the task of feeding and cleaning all the aviaries. We check all the birds to make sure that they are in good health whist we’re in the enclosures before the visitors arrive. One of my personal favourites in the Bird Garden are our family of palm cockatoos. These are unusual birds and it’s the first time I’ve worked with them. The youngest of the three birds is very inquisitive and he will often fly around the keepers, watching them closely as we clean and prepare the large aviary.

At this time of year we often find nests full of eggs which we will leave with parents to look after. On some occasions it may be necessary to take the eggs carefully to our artificial incubation room. Here we place them in specially designed incubators and hand rear any chicks that might hatch.

Once all of the birds are fed and checked, we go for a well- earned cup of coffee!

The next job is to clean out the farm animal paddocks and give them their first feed of the day. At 12pm, one of the keepers will take a bucket of eggs, veg and fruit to the pig enclosure. Here we invite visitors to take an item from the bucket and throw it over the fence for the pigs to enjoy. They are full of character and, since their arrival in March, I’ve grown very fond of them. Once the pigs have had their fill, we move onto the next paddock. Once again visitors can feed leafy greens to our hungry pygmy goats.

After lunch, I often leave the Bird Garden and Farm in the capable hands of the team and head over to the office to carry out the necessary (and inevitable!) paperwork for the day. This includes record keeping, ordering supplies, planning for upcoming events, liaising with the vet, managing new arrivals and arranging transportation of animals who may be leaving our care.

A significant role for the Bird Garden is the care and preservation of endangered species. Many of the birds we manage are in captive breeding programmes which supports their ongoing survival. These breeding programmes exist to support the genetic variation of captive populations. Computer databases help compile studbooks that record the details of each individual animal in the programme. This includes the animal’s sex, date of birth, and full family history. No money changes hands when we exchange animals with other zoos. Our aim is purely to save and protect endangered wildlife.

We have welcomed several new additions including six Humboldt penguins which arrived in early March from the Cotswold Wildlife Park in Oxfordshire. We also took on an egg which our colony have adopted. We hope that this foster-chick will hatch soon.

Other new additions include a pair of cheer pheasants which form part of our Himalayan themed enclosures overlooking the Lake, and a large group of roul roul partridge, an appealing, ground dwelling bird from Borneo.

When I’m in the office, it’s also the time that I catch up with the rest of the team who work outside the Bird Garden. The team at Harewood have a lot to juggle from school groups to TV interviews!

At 3:30pm, I will head back to the Bird Garden to carry out the Daily Penguin Talk and often find myself introducing not only the penguins, but also the wild grey herons and red kites that visit the enclosure hoping they might help themselves to a sprat or two!

Once I have answered the varied and interesting questions from visitors, I will either head back to the office, or carry out a variety of tasks around the Bird Garden until it is time to close for the evening. Every day there are new and exciting challenges arriving, so no two days are ever the same.

By Nick Dowling, Bird Garden and Farm Experience Manager

New Plans Hatching in the Bird Garden

When I started on 7th December 2015, Harewood was already a hive of activity and over the past few months it has only gathered momentum!

Bird Garden Redevelopment Project - tree clearing credit Harewood House Trust (7)

The Bird Garden is undergoing a massive overhaul, with enclosures being taken down to make way for a brand new Central Hub. Tonnes of overgrown shrubs and trees have been taken away to open up beautiful views across the Lake.

The Bird Garden aviaries are also having a facelift and I am making plans for new species to join our existing collection. This will include a number of Himalayan birds that will be housed in the Lakeside aviaries.

Visit Harewood House in Yorkshire to see palm cockatoos

Palm cockatoos

We will also have aviaries dedicated to important international conservation work situated on the eastern side of the garden. These will be home to many endangered birds found throughout the world. A new species for you all to look out for this season are the Palm Cockatoos. This fascinating birds boast wonderful black feathers with an impressive crest and vivid pink cheeks. We hope that you come along to see these interesting creatures.

Harewood House penguin pool project

The penguins are also moving up the property ladder with a full refurbishment of their enclosure. New rock work and nesting caves will be a welcome improvement to our Humboldt family home.

And of course there will be the usual favourites including the Chilean flamingos, blue and gold macaws and Colin the Crow!

Harewood House has Harewood Farm with alpacas

This is only the start of the work that is planned before we re-open on March 25th. We are well under way with work on Harewood’s new Farm Experience. This week I have started to look for new residents for this brand new attraction.

We are all looking forward to welcoming you once again to the Bird Garden.