The New Avian Propagation Building at North Carolina Zoological Park


0 ne of the most popular exhibits at the North Carolina Zoological Park is the RJ. Reynolds Tropical Forest Aviary. However this magnificent walkthrough, free flight aviary building is rapidly approaching 20 years of use and is in need of major repairs. Therefore, a little over five years ago the zoo planned a major renovation of the structure. The scheduled repairs would take nearly two years but before any work could be performed on the exhibit, all of the avian inhabitants had to be relocated. Since the zoo had no suitable holding space, and rather than disposing of the entire collection, management decided to construct a modern off-exhibit facility for the nearly 70 birds comprising about 26 different species - The Avian Propagation Building.

The proposed building should be an asset to the zoo for many years instead of simply a place to hold birds for the duration of exhibit renovation. So the dual purpose function of the center was formulated.

First, the new building would house the collection during exhibit repairs. Later, the Avian Propagation Building would serve as a breeding center for the zoo's entire avian collection. Our new building would be an example of a recent initiative among zoo bird curators; to build larger and better offexhibit facilities to promote sustainable captive populations and drastically reduce use of wild-caught birds for zoo collections.

In order to turn this idea into reality The North Carolina Zoological Society graciously donated half of the money


required to match state funds which were provided.

Three years ago construction began and then one and a half years later it was finished. During the past year the propagation building has been in use during the overhaul of the R. ]. Reynolds Forest Aviary. So far, the building has been a great success. This success may be attributed to a great extent to the bird keepers who were involved in every step of the designing and construction process. The staff learned many basic principles of aviary construction which apply to any aviary regardless of size or cost. What the bird keepers learned is vital information for any aviculturist ranging from those with modest backyard aviaries to major zoo-


logical endeavors.

Perhaps the most important step in aviary or breeding facility construction is the first one. Where should you construct the new building? Fortunately our zoo is unique in that it has large parcels of undeveloped land. This enabled us to choose a secluded, wooded plot on a little traveled service road far from visitors and their vehicles. Our birds would have peace and quiet in this serene setting complimented by a stream and many native birds nearby.

Once a location was chosen, the design process began. Designing was the most complicated series of events. When many individuals have input in this process it will help immensely in the long term. For example, three keepers will have three different opinions of the ideal Ibis enclosure. So by combining everyone's ideas an optimum design can be reached. Not to mention the fact that an architect will not understand the husbandry requirements of a Scarlet Ibis Eudocimus ruber and a keeper can not draw the scale blueprint which the construction crew will need to build the Ibis holding pen. Basically, two heads are better than one in the design process.

Along with keeping an open mind and utilizing the input of several people, there are a few other items to consider when designing a propagation


building or aviary. First of all you must consider all of the uses of the building over an extended period of time. Most likely your bird collection will not stay the same indefinitely. Money will be saved long term if you do not need to rebuild aviaries to accommodate every change in your bird collection.

Secondly, know exactly what you want out of your building before it is built. It is nearly impossible to make-up and add details as construction moves along. In addition, try to keep designs as simple as possible. Complicated items take longer and cost more to build as well as costing more and taking longer to fix than their simpler counterparts. We also took our designer and architect to see other bird propagation facilities and had them speak with staff from those facilities who identified good and bad design features and why they were desirable or undesirable. Most importantly, we had animal care staff attend every design meeting and review every design drawing at every phase of the project.

In our situation at the North Carolina Zoo we were able to design an Avian Propagation Building that is very versatile. We have easily housed and cared for a diverse selection of birds from the diminutive Northern Parula Paruta americana to the rambunctious African Spoonbill Plata/ea alba. Our staff achieved this versatility by incorporat-


ing the husbandry experience of curators and keepers in the design phase and also by considering current and future uses of the building. Allowing the people who will use the building to design it resulted in a veiy pleasurable animal environment filled with a variety of features to make the keeper's jobs easier - and, more importantly, the birds' captive lives better.

The general layout of the building is very simple and symmetrical. A central keeper work space consisting of the office, kitchen, bathroom, incubation and brooder/nursery rooms is joined by a northern and southern wing containing a series of individual aviaries or flights. There are bird enclosures on the left and right sides of a central service aisle. Each of the two wings is further divided in half for a total of four bays of flights. Two bays each in the southern and northern sections with the central keeper area dividing them. Twenty-two flights are in the north end whereas there are only 18 in the South. There are two sizes of cages throughout the building and each cage has an outdoor component equal to or greater than the size of the indoor portion. All indoor flights are either 5 ft wide x 10 ft deep x 8 ft tall or 10 ft wide x 10 ft deep x 8 ft tall.