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Bird Garden Team

The Top Ten Birds Benefitting from Zoos and Aquariums

Bali Starling's at Harewood House in Yorkshire

With blue skin, these are an unusual bird available to view in the Bird Garden

A penguin that brays like a donkey, a vulture that can reach heights of over 20,000 feet and a parrot that is one of the best mimics of the human voice. These are just three of the species staving off extinction thanks to the help of zoos and aquariums.

The British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA) has compiled a report detailing the top ten birds most reliant on zoos and aquariums for their survival.

The African penguin, the Ecuador Amazon parrot and the Oriental white-backed vulture have all made it on to the list, which highlights some of the best examples of how zoos and aquariums are safeguarding the future of our planet’s wildlife and their habitats.

Dr Andrew Marshall, of BIAZA’s Field Programmes Committee, coordinated the compilation of the list with input from conservation experts based at BIAZA collections. He commented:

“More than one in ten species of bird is globally threatened; and the work zoos and aquariums do in protecting these wonderful animals is integral to the survival of many bird species.

“Zoo conservation work includes research, education, management of habitats and protected areas, improving human livelihoods in developing countries, breeding, reintroduction, environmental sustainability, and engagement with policymakers.

“As we continue to produce these lists, it is becoming more and more evident that the world’s zoos and aquariums are an essential source of funds and expertise for conservation of the natural world.”

The top ten list demonstrates the importance of zoos and aquariums not only for conservation breeding of safety-net populations, but also for their contribution to funding and management of conservation projects in the field, including research, education and support for local communities, as well as protection of crucial wildlife habitats.

Strict criteria were used to select the top ten. All the birds proposed had to be associated with current field initiatives by zoos and/or essential conservation breeding in zoos. Particular importance was given to initiatives which included a management role in the species’ conservation, rather than just providing funds.  Priority was also given to species listed as threatened on the international IUCN Red List of threatened species.

BIAZA’s top ten birds benefitting from zoos and aquariums are:

African penguin: Numbers are plummeting in the wild due to oil spills, overfishing, shifts in food availability and human disturbance.

Bali starling: These are seen as very desirable cage birds, and illegal trapping has brought them to virtual extinction in the wild.

Blue-crowned laughing thrush: The zoo population of this Chinese bird equates to 50% of the total global population.

Ecuador Amazon parrot: With fewer than 600 individuals left, its survival relies on the protection of remaining wild populations and their habitats.

Edwards’s pheasant: There is a small captive population, but it has never been seen or studied by a scientist in the wild.

Madagascar pochard: Just 20-25 Madagascar pochard now survive in the wild.

Northern bald ibis: Pesticide poisoning has had a devastating effect on their numbers but BIAZA members have contributed birds to a successful release programme and populations are slowly increasing.

Oriental white-backed Vulture: Traces of a toxic veterinary drug in farm animal carcases across Asia has decimated populations, but species restoration has been made possible by zoo-based expertise and funding.

Socorro dove: A classic island species, numbers have been devastated by man-introduced pests like rats, cats and goats. Captive breeding has saved it from total extinction.

Visayan tarictic hornbill: Two BIAZA zoos are actively supporting in-situ work to save and restore the wild habitat of this species.

(This list is in alphabetical order)

BIAZA logo

Big Changes in the Bird Garden


Harewood House in Yorkshire has a rare Bird GardenThroughout winter, our Keepers have been busy landscaping every enclosure and aviary so they are tailored to the individual species that reside there. Twice a year, our team use several tons of sand, gravel and woodchip as well as hundreds of metres of turf to create ideal habitats. The perches are replaced, nest boxes are cleaned out and indoor areas painted.

Outside the aviaries, all the Bird Garden footpaths, aviary walls, fences, benches and signs have been jet-washed and the fences, aviaries and sheds have been protected with over 100 litres of paint by staff and volunteers.

When we reopen in April, the most noticeable changes will be seen in the landscaping that has taken place. The original Bird Garden planting scheme was designed in 1969; many conifer hedges and juniper bushes were planted to cover fences and provide wind shelter for the birds. These had become overgrown, blocking light to the aviaries and surrounding areas. There is now a light, airy feel, with enclosures such as the African Grassland being reclaimed from the dense planting.

Importantly, wonderful lakeside views, which had almost disappeared, can now be enjoyed. You will be able to stand alongside the Flamingos and gaze across the Lake at the surrounding landscapes and enjoy native wildlife as originally intended.

To encourage our native species, we are introducing brand new, bird feeding stations inside the Bird Garden to add to the existing popular lakeside feeders which have seen Woodpeckers, Nuthatches and several species of Tits and Finches as regular visitors.

The new Bird Garden feeders, are designed to encourage lakeside species such as Cormorants, Herons, Little and Crested Grebes, Kingfishers as well as seasonal birds such as Goosanders and Golden Eyes. Permanent residents including Mute Swans, Large and Small Glebe and Dippers will also benefit from the improvements. The new feeding areas will include perches, dedicated bird and drinking facilities with bird bathes with a view down to the Flamingos from a seating area.

Incubation and Rearing Rooms Ready for Coming Year

The incubation and rearing rooms, which are housed away from the busy public areas, have been given a spring clean and the equipment checked ready for the breeding season. The incubators and brooder boxes have been switched on, and are now ready to be used when needed. Watch this space for news!

Winter Holidays

Even with the mild winter weather, some of our less hardy birds have been brought into heated indoor accommodation. Some of the Finches, our Maroon-Bellied Conures and “Freddy” the White Fronted Amazon, are some of the birds enjoying their winter holidays indoors. Located next to the Keepers’ offices, it can get quite loud with the chattering and calling from these often noisy guests. Several of the birds are good mimics, and have a repertoire of phrases and calls they often repeat.

Harewood House in Yorkshire is home to a pair of snowy owls

One of a pair of snowy owls at Harewood

For some of the hardier birds, the team have collected oak leaves and pine tree needles to landscape enclosures. The foliage is spread out on the aviary floors to create a soft surface for the Snowy Owls, Tragopan Pheasant and Chilean Flamingos. Tannin from the leaves also helps to protect the skin on the bird’s feet over winter.

Conservation and Protection of Rare Birds

Many of Harewood’s rare and endangered species are part of managed breeding programmes. It’s an important role, which ensures that populations close to extinction in the wild are sustained, whilst maintaining genetic diversity.

Harewood House in Yorkshire has a Red Legged seriemaAs part of this ongoing conservation work, we’ve collaborated with Paignton Zoo. They have sent a young male to pair up with our single, Red-Legged Seriema female, “Ethel”. Ethel’s new boyfriend has passed quarantine tests and has been given a clean bill of health. He will be introduced to Ethel before we open in April. As he’s settled in, he’s started to grow a long mane of feathers, typical for a male Seriema, and can now be heard calling out from his aviary searching for a mate.

The Bird Garden at Harewood House has penguins you can visit

The nearest relative of the Humbolt Penguin are the African Penguin, the Magellanic Penguin and the Galápagos Penguin.

The Humboldt Penguins are starting to claim nest burrows that are not already occupied, with some couples trying out several nests before they decide. One of our older pairs, Otto and Mr Otto had previously separated (the equivalent of a penguin divorce!), have now paired back up.  As their romance blossoms, they are getting ready for the breeding season by guarding their house from other would be squatters.

We have also rehomed a young female penguin to another breeding zoo. She is settling down and has paired up already which is great news to hear.

The chance of feeding the Humboldt penguins with the Keepers, on a one to one basis, is the best way to get close to these inquisitive birds for a personalised close up experience.

A update from the Bird Garden

Enjoy rare birds at Harewood House in Yorkshire

Harewood has a pair of African Grey Crane birds for visitors to see

During the winter months our Keepers were hard at work preparing the Bird Garden for the year ahead. Each aviary has been revamped with perching, ground cover and nest boxes, to provide suitable breeding environments. Many of the ducks prefer open grass and woodchip to dabble for insects, whereas the Laughing Thrushes and Wood Rails like the security of shrubs and trees for cover. Some of our single birds have been paired up with mates. The Red Crested Turacos, our African Grey Crowned Crane and the Nene Geese have all been found new companions. The incubation and rearing rooms housed in the Bird Garden have been given a spring clean ready for the breeding season. The first chicks likely to hatch are the small Pekins chicks which you will be able to visit in the Information Centre. When fully grown, these birds will be used as foster mothers, to hatch eggs and rear chicks for other species in the Bird Garden.

Harewood House near Leeds has flamingos

Some of these birds have been at Harewood since 1969

The Chilean Flamingos have undergone a health check looking for any problems. Some of the flock were  originally brought to Harewood in 1969. These older birds require a little more attention. Our experienced vet inspects their feet in particular. We keep a close eye out for age related issues such as arthritis, hip and eye problems. Whilst in the Bird Garden please also spare some time to look at our indigenous wildlife through the new vistas we have created across the lake. Join us in the Bird Garden to learn more about our nesting birds and plans for 2014.