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August 3, 2013

Bird Aviary Mimics Nature

Not too small, not too many perches. Aviary is just right for range of bird species.

  • Chimney Swifts cling to the interior of a faux chimney inside their aviary. Jessica Sayre/SFWC

  • Orphaned Chimney Swifts usually arrive at our Center for care between June and August. Jessica Sayre/SFWC

  • Volunteers and staff feed the Chimney Swifts every one to one-and-a-half hours. Jessica Sayre/SFWC

  • A juvenile Chimney Swift peeks out over the top of the faux chimney. Jessica Sayre/SFWC

  • Volunteers and staff relocated and retrofitted an existing aviary to meet the special needs of bird patients. SFWC

  • The completed bird aviary is next to the nursery and can accommodate various types of birds. Jessica Sayre/SFWC

  • A Common Nighthawk rests in the sand and grasses that grow on the floor of the aviary. Jessica Sayre/SFWC

  • Purple Martins also take advantage of the offerings inside the aviary. Jessica Sayre/SFWC

Unlike other birds, Chimney Swifts don’t typically perch, they cling. They usually rest on vertical surfaces in dim, enclosed areas, often in chimneys and other cave-like structures. But, when that resting place also becomes a nesting place, baby Chimney Swifts can run into danger.

With nests built in such perilous locations, infant Chimney Swifts, or the nests themselves, often fall to the ground. During breeding season, which lasts from June to August, great numbers of infant Chimney Swifts are brought to South Florida Wildlife Center for care.

To enable staff and volunteers to keep up with feeding the infant Chimney Swifts every one to one-and-a-half hours, far more frequently than other birds, an aviary was relocated to an area right next to the wildlife nursery. More than just an enclosed flying space, the aviary also provides items that encourage Chimney Swifts and other bird rehabilitation patients to exhibit the same natural behaviors as they would in the wild.

Help us build a space that will encourage our fox patients to exhibit their own natural behaviors»

The aviary is longer than other aviaries in order to maximize flying space for birds who are aerial feeders, and there are few perches. Instead, small-holed mesh is strung across frames that are hung to the sides of the aviary, which invites vertical perching by small Chimney Swifts. These panels can be removed when not needed.

Additionally, a faux chimney unit was installed, meant to mimic a space in which the Chimney Swifts would live in the wild. The unit is elevated off the ground, with a wire bottom for easy cleaning. Small ledges built into the sides of the interior of the unit simulate the bricks and mortar found in chimneys.

But the aviary isn’t just for Chimney Swifts. Since Common Nighthawks do not build nests, sand on the floor of the aviary allows grasses to grow in which a Nighthawk can still rest, protected. And nest boxes, where dozens of Purple Martins might sleep, are also on hand when necessary.

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