This is a rare example of a working aviary housed in an historical structure, restored to its full beauty and stocked with colourful birds. A must-see on your visit to Waddesdon.
Past & Present
The current Aviary was conceived by Ferdinand de Rothschild and built in 1889, on the site of one which had existed since at least 1883. Its structure is made of iron, and is painted and gilded in the style of a Rococo trelliswork pavilion - reminiscent of those erected at Versailles and Chantilly in the mid-18th century. Aviaries were often a feature of Rothschild gardens, although this is the only one which still exists today. We know Ferdinand had fond memories of the one at his childhood home, the Villa Grüneburg outside Frankfurt. Whenever he was at Waddesdon he made sure to visit the Aviary - the birds knew him and would come to the fronts of the enclosures to be fed with treats. His sister, Alice also continued this tradition.
Today the Aviary is home to an exotic collection of frugivorous and insectivorous birds. Comprising primarily of perching birds, there are also pigeons and doves, pheasants, barbets and turacos to be seen. Around a third of the species kept are of IUCN conservation concern. We are involved in a number of national, European and global captive breeding programs.
The Aviary contributes towards both ex-situ and in-situ conservation. Birds bred here have been returned to their native countries to take part in reintroduction projects. Our conservation fund, sustained by public donations collected from the Aviary grotto, currently supports projects in Indonesia. Not only do many of the species kept at the Aviary originate from this archipelago, but it is also the region experiencing the highest rate of deforestation in the world, which is a primary threat to its birdlife.
The Begawan Foundation was established in 1999, and the Rothschild's Mynah Conservation Project was its first initiative, aiming to save this Critically Endangered bird from extinction. Named after the zoologist Lord Walter Rothschild (second cousin once removed of Ferdinand), the Rothschild's Mynah (Leucopsar rothschildi) is endemic to the island of Bali, Indonesia. Distributed across an extremely small wild range and with a tiny population which fell to just 6 birds in 2001, it is still suffering from illegal poaching for the cagebird trade. Having bred this species since 1971, in 2011, 4 females bred at the Aviary along with 16 other birds from the European Endangered Species Programme (EEP) were sent to Bali to improve the genetic pool of the Foundation's breeding programme. The programme's first of many successful releases into the wild was made the following year. The Aviary's conservation fund has supported this Project since 2012.
Find out more about this project on The Begawan Foundation website
The Cikananga Foundation's Black & White Laughingthrush Conservation Breeding Programme was initiated in 2008, through the formation of 3 pairs from 13 birds rescued from markets in Java. This Sumatran-endemic species is inferred, from anecdotal evidence from the cage-bird trade and field observations, to have declined rapidly to the point that it is now likely to have a small global population, and rapid delcines are thought to be on-going. It is there classified as Vulnerable. Thanks, in part, to avicultural knowledge shared by European collections, their first successful breeding at Cikananga Wildlife Centre took place in 2011, which has continued. In the same year, the Aviary was the first collection to parent-rear this species in the UK (following our hand-rearing successes since 2005), and our conservation fund has supported the Programme since is initiation. Since 2014 the fund has jointly sponsored the placement of Anaïs Tritto, a French conservation biologist and ethologist at Cikananga. Like the Aviary, she is a laughingthrush specialist and did most of her research projects on this group. At Cikananga, she works with and studies the Black & White Laughingthrush (Garrulax bicolor), as well as numerous other threatened species.
To see more visit The Cikananga Foundation