All-weather aviary for birds

Cockatoos and other birds at Best Friends get a new all-weather aviary that has many fun activities for them to do, like chewing on wood.
By David Dickson

If every person in the world were as easy to shop for as a cockatoo, there would be a lot less gift catalogs in the mail. (Then again, there might be a critical lumber shortage around major gift-giving holidays.)

Cockatoos chewing on wood

 Two cockatoos

Reducing large chunks of wood down to a pile of splinters is a cockatoo’s birthright. To them, any sizeable chunk of wood will do, whether it be a large tree branch or a hand-carved mahogany dresser. They are nothing if not equal-opportunity-artists of destruction.

New flight aviary

And now, the cockatoos at Best Friends will not only have ample opportunity to whittle away like never before, but they’ll be able to compare creative results side by side with fellow cockatoos. You see, their new all-weather aviary, commonly called a flight, allows them all sorts of options for how to spend their time. An ideal day might now include destroying a log before breakfast, schmoozing with that cute new bird until lunch, then climbing up and down rope ladders to show off to all the friends — a delightfully busy day.

This new all-weather flight, divided into two large rooms, will provide many such exploration opportunities for the large cockatoos at the sanctuary. Similar to the recently completed Amazon flight, this enclosure allows the cockatoos a large space to explore the world around them while socializing with other birds.

In the past, it was harder for cockatoos to go outside much during the cold winter weather. And even in the warmer weather, they were usually on their own or maybe with one friend. With the much larger setup, however, they will be able to stay and play no matter what the weather dishes out. In hotter months, the siding will come off to allow breezes. In the winter, the siding goes back on and the inside heater keeps things cozy. All year long, of course, the room will be light with natural sunlight.

A bigger, constant play area is really only one of the perks. The main draw as far as the cockatoos are concerned is all the other birds they are able to interact with. Consider the Amazons in their new flight. Shortly after all the supposed pairs were turned loose with new social options, all kinds of different social arrangements took place. In a nutshell, birds really seem to enjoy new faces.

Nuts for the birds to crack open

 Josh the cockatoo

Speaking of nutshells, cracking nuts open with their beaks is another thing cockatoos love to do. While that may sound like a headache waiting to happen, it’s all part of the fun for a cockatoo. And there will be plenty such opportunities in the new rooms. In fact, one of the jungle gym type activities in the works involves suspending a large log with holes drilled inside. Nuts and other treats will be stashed in the holes to provide hours of foraging fun while shredding wood at the same time. Does life get any better?

A garden for parrots

One final little perk. Since this building is essentially a large greenhouse with climate control, the bird staffers are going to plant a garden for the cockatoos in the coming months. Berries and veggies will grow right in their room, which will let the birds do some extra foraging in their free time. So hey, if you want to drop by and say hello to the cockatoos, you’d better pencil yourself in fast. Sounds like their schedules are going to be booked solid!

Photos by Gary Kalpakoff and Sarah Ause

Learn more about Parrot Garden, where the birds live at the sanctuary.