Look Inside The Zoo's Renovated, 'More Amorous,' Bird House

Apr 12, 2018

New signage, vegetation and lighting are greeting birds and visitors alike at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden's renovated Wings of the World exhibit. The bird house reopens Saturday after a six-month renovation.

Ultraviolet light now streams through each habitat, designed to make the birds happier and, perhaps, a bit more amorous. Birds have a more vibrant view of the ultraviolet light spectrum, says David Orban, animal excellence coordinator.

"We think it plays a really large role in mate selection, mate signaling, how they rear chicks, how they recognize their eggs, how they interact with one another, how they recognize one another, and so putting that ultraviolet light in there we think may help facilitate those social interactions and maybe breeding as well."

The zoo got a federal grant to install new informational signs, and games. Touch any of multiple bird sculptures like this one on the head to hear its call.
Credit Tana Weingartner / WVXU

In some places, this means electric UVA-emitting lights were installed. In others, skylights were replaced with ones that let in a broader light spectrum.

Orban says the habitats are more dynamic and enriching for the birds. "We took the time to bring in new foliage, new vegetation, there's a bunch of new perching for the birds," he says. "We upgraded all the substrates and really just tried to freshen up the space."

The zoo decided to upgrade the aviary habitats at the same time it received a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services to install new signage and activities for visitors. There are now games for kids and families to learn about birds, and plaques that encourage people to make connections between the zoo's birds and those right in their own backyards. Tips are included for making the world better for birds, like how to make windows more bird-friendly to cut down on bird strikes.

This vibrant, male Andean cock-of-the-rock competes with other males of his species to draw the eye of rust-colored females. They're no longer housed in a walk-through enclosure after the males saw Bengals fans as competition.
Credit Tana Weingartner / WVXU

The birds are exploring their new habitats, having just been returned to them in the past few days. The Cincinnati Zoo's Andean cocks-of-the-rock seem happy in their new enclosure - they're no longer housed in the open-air aviaries. The bright orange males of the species "compete with each other for the females attention - they want to attract females - they were really attracted to Bengals fans and the bright orange hats or clothing that they were wearing," Orban says with a laugh. "We had a little bit more interaction between birds and humans than we were hoping for."

To see more pictures of the zoo's renovated space, click the photo at the top.