Zoos of Texas


[Editors Note: We bird lovers have always been delighted with zoos because they usually contain a large and beautiful assortment of birds - quite often birds we seldom see in private aviculture. With this in mind, Josef Lindholm has kindly put together an overview of the zoos of Texas. Hopefully, those of you who are driving to the convention will take time to visit the zoos along your way. Due to space constraints, it may take several issues to include all the zoos. SLD]

At the beginning of March, 2003, ISIS (The International Species Inventory System) listed 647 species and subspecies of birds held by participating Texas animal collections.

Ninety-six were psittacines, 92 were ducks, geese, and swans, 37 were pigeons and doves, and 148 were passerines. As several interesting places don't submit their statistics to ISIS, the number of bird taxa held by public exhibits in Texas is actually somewhat higher. On the occasion of the scheduling of the 2003 AFA Convention in San Antonio, here follows the first installment of a Statewide review of public bird exhibits.

Frank J. Smith Bird Sanctuary

The city of Borger sits out on the Panhandle, up in the northwestern corner of Texas. When the circumstances of 9/11 dictated a cross country drive from California back to Waco, a slight detour was planned, as I had heard much of the city park aviary. As it happened, about the first thing we saw at the Frank J. Smith Bird Sanctuary was Frank J. Smith. That Saturday morning Frank was running grocery errands when he noticed, driving past the park, that budgies were where they didn't belong. Natalie and I showed up in time to help put them back in their compartment. The Sanctuary consists of one big complex of aviaries (built around a pool), with several smaller ones nearby. Along with Budgies, Cockatiels, Zebra Finches, Canaries, Barbary Doves, Domestic Pigeons, and Ornamental Poultry, there are Golden and Amherst's Pheasants, Black Swans, and Bobwhites. The most recent addition is an exhibit for a Scarlet Macaw and Yellow-naped and Yellow-headed Amazons, some of which were procured through arrangements of the Cameron Park Zoo.

Frank J. Smith, in insurance for more than fifty years, visited zoos around the world and always felt a need for a public collection in his home city. He was finally able to realize his dream around ten years ago. Frank died last year, and his old friend, Clarence Dixon, the Sanctuary's supervisor (and builder of the aviaries) suffered a severe injury around the same time. Thus things are in somewhat of a holding pattern at present. Clarence hopes to soon return to his work, and it will beĀ 

interesting to see how this municipal aviary develops over the future.

El Paso Zoo

In the Southwestern comer of Texas, El Paso faces the Mexican City of Juarez. For years this compact zoo has specialized in the fauna of North and South America, and, more recently, Asia. An unusual series of indoor exhibits, including aquaria and a nocturnal house, are interspersed with attractive outdoor displays. Outstanding among its collection of more than eighty species of birds are Spotted Whistling Ducks, Cotton Teal, Hooded Cranes, Rhinoceros Hombills, Flame-tufted Barbets, Bali Mynahs, Jacarini Finches, Red-rumped Cassiques, and breeding Clay-colored Robins. The collection of native species is unusually rich and includes a Sanderling and Dunlin, American Avocets, breeding Mourning Doves, Eastern Bluebirds, a Brown Thrasher, Cedar Waxwings, Painted Buntings, and an Eastern Meadow Lark.

Fort Worth Zoological Park

At around 120 species, the bird collection at Fort Worth is somewhat smaller than it was in the mid 1990's, but concentrates on conservation-significant species and avicultural rarities. A Piedbilled Grebe has recently passed its fourth year at Fort Worth, a significant longevity for any grebe. This is also the only grebe ISIS lists for any Western Hemisphere collection. It is exhibited in one of a series of pools which otherwise showcase an unusually fine collection of waterfowl, as well as flocks of Caribbean, Chilean, and Lesser Flamingos. Last year the zoo joined the still small number of places that have bred Lesser Flamingos. The colony was isolated in an off-exhibit facility and three males were sent to Cameron Park Zoo, which, in tum, sent its only two females to Fort Worth, resulting in a group of twelve males and seven females. A single chick was raised and hand-reared. The bird staff had already had considerable experience hand-raising flamingos, as a collection of Caribbean Flamingo eggs arrived from the famed Hialeah Racetrack last year as well. Included among the rich collection of ducks, geese, and swans are Lesser White-fronted and Red-breasted Geese, Southern Spur-winged Geese, Bronzewinged Ducks, Indian Spotbills, and a Magellanic Flightless Steamer. At Fort Worth since 1995, this is the only Steamer on public exhibit in North America. Long-established breeding programs continue for Black-necked Swans, North...