Stop by the Kennecott Wetland Immersion Experience to see the avocet and other wetland birds!
American avocets are wetland birds native to North America and can be found in Northern Utah during their breeding season. The avocet’s plumage changes with the season. In the summer, the head and neck are a rusty brown with the color changing to gray in the winter. Avocets usually feed in flocks of up to several thousand birds and use their long dark upturned bill to eat invertebrates, small fish, and seeds.
American White Pelican
Weighing up to 30 lbs and sporting a 7-foot wing span, the American white pelican has earned its bragging rights as Utah’s largest native bird. It is easily identified by its white plumage, bright orange feet and orange bill that includes a huge, net-shaped pouch. These large birds live around freshwater wetlands and lakes.
Unlike their close cousin the brown pelican, American white pelicans do not dive beneath the water for their prey, but instead hunt along the surface in groups, herding and corralling fish toward shore into an ever-tightening half-circle. The pelicans then dip forward in simultaneous motion to scoop prey into their expanded pouches.
You can connect with the American white pelican at the daily feedings of Tracy Aviary’s pelican flock. Or if you prefer a wilder experience, visit Great Salt Lake from late spring to early fall. One of the largest breeding populations of American white pelicans in the world gathers on the lake’s protected Gunnison Island.
Chilean flamingos live in flocks of dozens to tens of thousands of birds along shallow, brackish lakes and rivers throughout South America. The pale pink color of their feathers comes from the food they eat—shrimp and tiny algae—and they are easily identified by their long, skinny legs and thick, curved black and white bill. It takes up to two years for a flamingo to gain its color, so chicks spend the first few years of their life sporting white to grey feathers and slowly growing their pink plumage over time.
Flamingos are often seen standing on just one leg. By tucking one leg up into the soft down on their stomach, they release less heat along the surface area of their legs to regulate their body temperature more effectively.
Be sure to visit the flamingo flock at the Aviary and see if you can tell which one is our youngest Chilean flamingo, born during the summer of 2009.
Double-crested Cormorants are widely distributed throughout North America. Northern Utah is part of the breeding range for this species. These cormorants are named after the feathers that mature adults grow on either side of their head during breeding season.
The flock at the Aviary were once wild, but various injuries landed them in wildlife rehabilitation centers. The injuries on these birds were severe enough that they were unable to be rereleased into the wild and they now make their home at the Aviary. Double-crested Cormorants feed almost exclusively on fish.
The great grey owl is the largest North American owl with a wingspan up to 60 inches, though both the snowy owl and great horned owl weigh one and a half times more, and have larger feet and talons. This species ranges from Alaska south to the northwestern US and east to the Great Lakes region. They also inhabit northern Europe and Russia preferring coniferous forests in the far north. The Great grey’s main prey is small rodents like mice and squirrels. The feathers of its facial disc channel sound to its ears, which are surrounded by bony cups, allowing it to locate prey, even beneath 2 feet of snow in the dark.
Usually nesting in abandoned hawk and eagle nests or on tree stumps, great grey owls are devoted parents. When prey is scarce, females will starve themselves to maximize food for their chicks, losing up to a third of their own body weight. Their sacrifices are rewarded with high breeding success rates. Breeding pairs in North America successfully fledge 70-80 percent of their young.
Timber harvesting is the greatest threat for conservation of the species.
These highly intelligent, brightly colored birds are found from northeastern India through Thailand, Malaysia, Sumatra and parts of Borneo. They feed mostly on invertebrates, small mammals, reptiles and young birds and live primarily in evergreen and bamboo forests.
Their bright green color helps them blend in with their forest homes. These relatives of American crows are known to avoid being eaten by following predators through the treetops calling loudly to warn other animals of danger. Listen closely and you may catch them mimicking other bird species and sounds from their environment!
The Grey-winged Trumpeter is found in Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Northwest Brazil. They are very social birds, living in small groups. They will forage on the rainforest floor and roost together. They primarily eat fruit but they also enjoy bugs.
They are commonly kept as pets in South America by the local people; they are used as “watch dogs” because pet Trumpeters will call loudly when potential predators or unknown people come around. They will also protect the owner’s poultry from potential predators.
Guira cuckoos are noisy, outgoing birds that live in large family groups in the upper half of South America. Related to the roadrunner, guira cuckoos can often be found running along the ground in small groups while hunting insects, small reptiles and amphibians. They are readily identified by their shaggy brown feathers, spiky crest and long tail.
Like other cuckoos, guira cuckoos are communal nesters, but not the most polite roommates. Groups will use a single nest to house approximately 20 blue speckled eggs from multiple females, but when others aren’t looking, the cuckoos will sometimes push eggs from the nest to decrease competition for their own chicks.
Tracy Aviary’s guira cuckoos are almost all from the same family and were hatched here at the Aviary.
The Keel-billed Toucan is also known as the Rainbow-billed Toucan. They live in Southeast Mexico through Northern South America. They are a very social species and live in groups of 6-12 birds.
Female Keel-billed Toucans are smaller and have a shorter bill than the males. The species sleep in tree cavities with other Toucans. They fold their tails up and tuck their beaks under a wing to make more space.
They eat fruit but also enjoys small birds, eggs, reptiles and bugs. These birds nest in tree cavities and have 2-4 eggs each clutch; both male and female help to incubate the eggs.
This unusual-looking bird is native to South America and supports its environment as a ”waste management specialist” by eating carrion. The species is built to hunt out and safely eat dead animals, which would make most other creatures ill. Its keen eyesight and sense of smell help it locate its meals and its colorful, bald head helps keep the bird clean while digging around in carcasses.
This species of vulture also has an exceptionally strong beak, which tears easily into the hides of its food. The king vulture gets its name from the tendency of other scavengers to step away from carcasses as it approaches, as though it were a king, because it can open up fresh carrion more easily than birds with weaker beaks.
Don’t miss the Aviary’s pair of king vultures, who, like all vultures, enjoy bathing in the sun’s UV rays to disinfect bacteria from their wings.
Peafowl are a species of pheasant native to India and Sri Lanka and are best known for the extravagant tail display of the male—or peacock— during mating season. The peacock’s tail is actually an arrangement of extra feathers, called a “train,” which grows in addition to the real tail. Each feather of the train is topped with a large ‘eye’ used to both attract mates and scare off predators. Female peafowl are called peahens and can be identified by their duller brown feathers and lack of a train. Peafowl young are called peachicks.
While wild peafowl live in forests and open grassy areas, peafowl can now be found all over the world as pets and exhibit birds. They are content to remain free roaming and fully flighted wherever they have adequate food and protection from predators, such as at Tracy Aviary.
Come to the Aviary and check out our Pink Pigeons to see a truly unique member of the pigeon family!
The Pink Pigeon is endemic (found nowhere else in the world) to the small islands off the coast of Madagascar called Mauritius. These birds were once on the brink of extinction and only 10 individuals remained in the wild. Since the early 90’s, captive bred release programs and other conservation efforts have brought these unique birds back from the brink, and they are now classified as Endangered (no longer Critically Endangered) on the IUCN red list.
In the wild, these birds prefer intact upland evergreen and coastal forests where they forage for favorite fruits, leaves and insects.
The red-legged seriema lives in South America mostly in grassland habitat. Males are slightly larger than females, but otherwise the sexes look alike. Their crest is formed by permanently raised, slightly stiff feathers at the base of the bill and they have beautiful blue skin around the eyes. Seriemas have three very sharp, short front toes and a raised, smaller rear toe which enables them to run quickly to escape from predators. They can only fly for short distances, so their primary method of escape is to run. The seriema’s call is unusual and typically described as a “yelping dog.” It can be heard over a mile away and is usually produced in the early morning hours in defense of a mating pair’s territory. One member of the pair will usually start the song while the other answers in a sort of duet.
Though considered omnivores, seriemas prefer insects like grasshoppers and beetles, along with small rodents, birds, lizards, snakes, and frogs. They will also eat seeds, fruits, and crops.
The male’s courtship display consists of strutting before the female, stretching out his flight feathers and lowering his head to show his crest. Seriemas are thought to mate for life and both participate in nest building (which usually takes them about a month). Two eggs are usually laid and the responsibility of incubation is also shared by both parents.
Although humans are interfering with red-legged seriema habitat through agricultural and water developments, seriemas seem to be adapting to the changes and are a species of least concern according to the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature).
The red-tailed hawk is the most prevalent species of hawk in North America and is named for its reddish-brown colored tail. Red-tails have that famous sharp, high-pitched scream of “kee-ee-aar”, typically dubbed in movie soundtracks to represent just about any predatory bird on the screen.
This adaptable hunter spends much of its time searching for prey from elevated objects such as utility poles, fences and trees. Once it spots a potential meal—usually a small rodent, reptile or small bird— the red-tailed hawk will swoop down to strike with its legs extended, one behind the other. Although this is its preferred method of hunting, it can occasionally be seen stalking prey on the ground or hovering in strong winds. Despite its formidable size, a Red-tailed Hawk only weighs about 3 pounds. A dog that size would weigh about 10 pounds. It is the red-tailed hawk’s ability to hunt and survive in a variety of ways that allows it to live in such a wide range of habitats, from Canada down to Central America.
It takes three years for a red-tailed hawk to fully mature and at this age it will select a mate through ritualistic courtship displays. Once a mate has been selected, the pair will remain together for the rest of their lives and establish a territory that can cover up to 4 square miles of land. An extremely territorial species, both birds will tirelessly defend their territory against other predators, with the female primarily defending the nest site and the male defending territory boundaries.
Sandhill cranes are the only species of crane native to Utah. They can be found scouting for meals of insects and invertebrates in the soggy mud of marshes and wetlands throughout the upper half of our state. The cranes’ fossil record dates back over nine million years, making them one of the oldest species of birds persisting today. These cranes are so well adapted to survival that in those nine million years little has changed about their appearance.
Sandhill cranes generally mate for life at two years of age, finding partners during spring migration and bonding through dancing displays and calls cried out in unison. Chicks are hatched during late spring in floating nests anchored along wetland shores and are cared for by both parents until they are about 10 months old.
The scarlet ibis is a nomadic bird closely related to storks and spoonbills, found in wetlands and coastal locations throughout South America. It seasonally moves in groups between sites where water is present to find reliable sources of crabs, invertebrates, frogs and fish.
Like flamingos, scarlet ibises get their bright red color from the food they eat—in this case, tropical crabs. Their long bill has a very sensitive tip, similar to human finger tips, that they use to feel for their tasty meals deep in the mud or water. When raising young, scarlet ibises build their nests in trees near hundreds of other ibis nests for extra protection against predators.
Southern Ground Hornbill
Southern ground hornbills are one of the largest of the hornbill species and are native to savannas and grasslands that adjoin forest in southeast Africa. The body feathers are black and the primary feathers of the wings are white. The birds have a bright red throat patch that can be inflated when they vocalize and their booming call can be heard for miles. The female has additional blue markings on her throat patch. Both sexes have very long eyelashes (which are feathers!) and the eyes are also surrounded by red skin patches. Though they can fly, and roost in trees at night, they spend most of their time on the ground in search of food.
Their long bills are used for stabbing at their prey which includes insects, frogs, snails, and mammals up to the size of small hares. They are very opportunistic in their feeding habits and are known to take snakes as venomous as cobras and puff adders. The average lifespan in the wild is not definitively known but believed to be 35 to 40 years. It is possible that their maximum longevity could be as long as 70 years.
They often walk with antelope, zebra and other mammals, taking advantage of food disturbed by the herds. Ground hornbills mate for life, and offspring may spend several years as part of the family group. The family group is usually 5-10 birds, and all family members defend the territory and help in what is termed “cooperative breeding.” Tracy Aviary is one of the few zoological institutions that houses southern ground hornbills in a family group as they would naturally be found in the wild.
Southern ground hornbills are persecuted in some areas of their home range, many times for breaking windows which the birds will do when they see their reflection. Their territories restrict the numbers of birds that can exist in any given area and the reproductive rate is one of the slowest among birds. A group will successfully raise a chick about once every nine years. Still considered “vulnerable” by the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature), biologists believe current numbers may suggest that they should be listed as critically endangered.
Black-crowned Night Heron
The black-crowned night-heron has the largest range of any heron, living in wetlands across five different continents. It is a stocky, medium-sized bird with a black cap on its head, black shoulders and pale grey wings.
These birds avoid competing for food with larger herons by hunting during the evening and night, when they patiently wait for their meals of crustaceans, invertebrates and fish. While hunting, black-crowned night herons stand perfectly still on the edge of the water and then quickly ambush unsuspecting passing prey. If waiting is not enough, sometimes the heron will dip its bill into the water and rapidly open and close it to attract prey. Black-crowned night herons live in colonial groups and help raise the young of others with their own.
Tracy Aviary’s black crowned night herons can be found in the Kennecott Wetlands Immersion Experience, located in the northeast section of the Aviary. Look closely and you’ll also see an albino among them.
The Southern lapwing is a ground-dwelling wading bird found near lakes, riverbanks, and open grassland throughout South America.
These birds are territorial and have an array of defensive displays, vocalizations, and aerobatic flapping display flights. During the breeding season, parents produce alarm calls that cause their chicks to crouch in the vegetation when a potential predator is near. Southern lapwings are also known to present a ‘broken-wing’ display to attract ground dwelling predators (humans, cats, etc…) away from their nest. The timing of breeding for Southern Lapwings is strongly related to the timing of the rainy season. Pairs are thought to be monogamous with normal clutch sizes ranging from 1-4 eggs.
Its food is mainly insects and other small invertebrates, hunted by a run-and-wait technique, mainly at night. This gregarious species often feeds in flocks.
In Uruguay, due to its bold and combative nature it has become mascot of the Uruguay national rugby team.
The bald eagle is found only on the North American continent living near lakes and rivers from Alaska to Northern Mexico. Bald eagles only migrate south where freezing of water bodies occur. One of eight species of fish eagles, their primary food source is fish. They also feed on carrion, waterfowl, and small mammals. Adult male eagles generally weigh about 9 pounds and adult females typically weigh between 12 and 13 pounds. Adult eagles have a wing span of up to 7 feet. Immature eagles are mottled brown and white with a dark beak. The distinct white head and tail and yellow beak of the mature bird is developed between 4-5 years of age. Pairs typically mate for life, which in the wild can be between 30 and 35 years. In captivity, they have been known to live up to 50 years.
Because they are near the top of the food chain, eagles are an irreplaceable indicator for measuring the health of the entire ecological system in which they live. The bald eagle was listed as an endangered species in 1978 after a dramatic population decline (largely the result of DDT contamination). The Bald Eagle was removed from the endangered species list in 2007. Although populations of the Bald Eagle have recovered, it continues to be protected under the Endangered Species Act, the Bald Eagle Protection Act, and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
Ever heard of the saying “eagle eye” used to describe someone with exceptional eyesight? Bald Eagles have such keen eyesight that they can spot fish from up to a mile high in the air!
Experience the magnificent colors and outgoing personalities of sun conures first ‘hand’ by feeding our flock in our Amazon Adventure exhibit.
Wild sun conures are social birds that live in groups of approximately 30 individuals, feeding primarily upon fruit, seeds, nuts, flowers and legumes.
Though they are popular pets, little more is known about the lives of sun conures in the wild. It was widely thought that these small, brightly colored parrots had strong populations, but recent studies indicate that there are less than 2500 left in the wild due to habitat loss and capture of individuals for the pet industry. Consequently, sun conures have been classified as Endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature organization.
Ancient civilizations along the Andes Mountains believed that the Andean condor was a form of their sun god and they held the bird in highest esteem. As one of the largest flighted birds on earth with its 11 foot-wide wing span, it is not surprising that early humans considered this bird an otherworldly creature. Using its huge wings to catch rising hot air currents, the Andean condor can glide without flapping for hours, reaching heights of 18,000 feet—more than 3 miles high!
Like other vultures, condors depend on carcasses for their meals and have specially adapted digestive systems to break down bacteria that would otherwise make them very ill. Andean condors are found in high, rocky areas of the Andes Mountains, low deserts in Peru and Chile and grassy plains in Argentina.
The Sunbittern is found in Guatemala to Ecuador. The species may also be found in Southern Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela, Brazil, and Bolivia.
Sunbitterns live alone or in pairs and have a permanent breeding territory. They are commonly kept as pets as they will keep an owner’s home free of flies and spiders. They have large “eye spots” (spectacular ocelli) on their wings to scare away potential predators or to defend a potential meal from an intruder. The Sunbitterns at Tracy Aviary like to vocalize by hissing at the keepers when they walk past.
Come visit the aviary to catch a glimpse of our Trumpeter Swan pair gliding across a pond near you!
The Trumpeter Swan is native to Northern North America and is the largest waterfowl found in its range. These impressive birds were hunted for their beautiful white feathers to the point of near extinction in the early 20th century. Thanks to conservation efforts, their population has recovered and they are now common throughout most of their range.
Trumpeter swans can live over 24 years in the wild and form tight pair bonds with their mate that lasts a lifetime. Females lay 1-9 eggs in a large nest of vegetation near water, eggs are incubated by both parents. The grayish-brow Cygnets leave the nest within 24 hours of hatching to swim and feed with the parents.
Despite the scientific name, turquoise tanagers are found only in northern South America. The Turquoise Tanager eats fruits and bugs found on the underside of twigs.
Female Tanagers lay 2-3 eggs during breeding season and chicks hatch after 12-14 days of incubation. The feeding of chicks is shared with 4 or 5 adult family members. Unlike other Tanagers, this species can be aggressive toward other Tanager species and is only social with other Turquoise Tanagers.