AVA Visits ... The Aviaries of Ray Sexton


While visrtmg the royal zoo in Katmandu, Nepal in 1970, I was awed by the incredible beauty of the Golden Pheasant, a species I had never seen previously and could hardly believe was real. Needless to say, it was an experience contributing to my interest in aviculture, and not surprisingly the Golden Pheasant is the species that kindled a similar flame in Ray Sexton, a pheasant breeder nonpareil.

Ray Sexton's initial brush with aviculture occurred in 1964, when he acquired a "dome" shaped incubator from Sears Roebuck and a gift of two quail eggs. The instructions accompanying the incubator were followed, but the eggs proved infertile. Additional quail eggs were located through a local newspaper advertisement, however, these also proved a disappointment.

Not one to give up, Ray encountered his first Golden Pheasant and shortly thereafter obtained some of their eggs. These eggs produced viable offspring and Ray was hooked. The young birds matured and began producing their own eggs, and before long Ray had so many Goldens, he hardly knew what to do. The birds were easily sold and the income realized was enough to permit the acquisition of a number of rarer species. As time would have it, Ray's collection has come to boast one of the rarest and most interesting arrays of pheasant species in North America. These include nearly all the peacock pheasants including the very rare Rothschild's, Malayan, and Bronze Tail. He has representatives of the Brown Eared, Blue Eared, and two forms of the White Eared: the Szechuan and the Tibetan drouyni. The extraordinary tragopans are represented by the Cabot's, Satyr and Temminck's. Bornean and Delacour's Fireback Cheer, Crawford's Kalij, Lady Amherst, and Golden Pheasants round out the collection.

While pheasants are the main focus of Ray's avicultural interest, he has been adding other interesting species to the farm. Several pairs of Saurus and Stanley Cranes can be observed regally strutting their stuff. He recently acquired some Tibetan Snow Cocks, a large member of the partridge family, a couple pairs of Brush Turkeys, which incubate their eggs in a large mound of decaying debris, and a pair of Red-legged Seriamas, a large South American bird that delights zoo-goers, when performing in bird shows, their routine of "attack the lizard".