What is an Aviary?

Mary McMahon

An aviary is an enclosure which is designed for the keeping of birds. Aviaries are much larger than conventional bird cages, allowing the birds to fly and promoting a more natural lifestyle. The construction of aviaries dates to the 1800s, when several zoological parks constructed aviaries as attractions to draw visitors.

Aviaries are large enough to allow birds the freedom to fly.
Aviaries are large enough to allow birds the freedom to fly.

In addition to being seen at zoos, aviaries are also used by private bird breeders and bird enthusiasts, and by organizations which breed endangered species. By keeping endangered breeding pairs in an aviary, the birds can be protected without growing too accustomed to humans, ensuring that they and their young will have a better chance of surviving in the wild. Some aviaries for captive breeding of endangered animals are quite large to give the birds lots of room to roam.

Macaws may be featured in an aviary.
Macaws may be featured in an aviary.

The design of an aviary is usually large enough to allow at least one person to step inside for maintenance tasks and to check on the birds. The structure may be located outdoors or indoors, depending on available space and the climate. An outdoor aviary often has a sheltered area so that the birds can take refuge in bad weather, while an indoor aviary may have an access hatch to a secure outdoor area so that the birds can get fresh air.

Mesh or glass walls can be used in the construction of an aviary. Mesh promotes air circulation without allowing the birds to escape, while glass can be used for greater climate control, and to protect the birds from infectious agents. In zoological parks, some aviaries have an enclosure inside the aviary so that visitors can step into the aviary without coming into direct contact with the birds, keeping the birds safe from harm.

Several concerns have to addressed in the design of an aviary. Air circulation is important for health, and drainage is also critical, as is flooring which can be cleaned or layered with changeable bedding. Provision of feeding and drinking stations is another aspect of aviary design, as is the construction of an enriched interior environment which includes branches, trees, holes, and other places for birds to explore so that they do not become bored or frustrated in captivity. Large aviaries are often landscaped with shrubs, trees, and plants which are safe for the birds.

Several firms manufacture aviary kits which people can order to make home aviaries. It is also possible to build one from scratch, either with the assistance of a contractor, or independently. For people who do not have a great deal of experience with keeping birds, it can be a good idea to consult a local bird authority to get hints and tips on aviary construction.

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