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A peek inside the bright, colorful and noisy Tropical Rainforest aviary!

Posted by Elizabeth Bacher, Communications, with contributions from animal keepers Erin Martin and Catherine Vine

The Tropical Rainforest (TRF) building hasn’t reopened to the public just yet (we’ll share a schedule for inviting you back in as soon as we have some details) but there’s a lot happening inside. Our animal keepers are busy 7 days a week, caring for the many species that call it home—and every day our horticulture team tends to all the plants, flowers and trees that provide the lush backdrop for all of their habitats.

Our our horticulture team tends to all the plants, flowers and trees that provide the lush backdrop for the naturalistic habitats in the Tropical Rainforest building. Photo: Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo

The large, domed walk-through aviary inside of the TRF building is teeming with life—especially the feathered kind! It is an indoor oasis that is home to more than 30 birds of more than a dozen South American species. Some are artfully camouflaged while others are brightly colored. Overall, this habitat is filled with birds that are active, colorful, noisy—and growing in number as some of them welcomed chicks this past year!

The crested oropendola is one of many South American species in the Tropical Rainforest's walk-through aviary space. Photo: Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo

Our crested oropendolas welcomed a new little one this past summer. Crested oropendolas are large birds that can measure up to a foot and a half in length from beak tip to tail! The adults are mostly black with bright yellow tail feathers, a large whitish beak and vivid blue eyes. The newest addition to the oropendola isn’t so little anymore. Within a couple months he was already twice as big as his mom! Juvenile birds often appear bigger than their parents, with extra feathering to provide a little additional loft and cushioning during that awkward “learning to fly” phase of growing up.

Yellow-rumped caciques are social and noisy! Photo: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo

Caciques and oropendolas both live in social groups and build hanging nests. Photo: Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo

One of our pairs of yellow-rumped caciques also hatched out a couple chicks this past year, around the same time as their larger neighbors. Like the oropendolas, these birds are black and yellow in color but as their name suggests, their yellow patch is on their rump as opposed their tail. Both of these species build nests in groups almost like a community. They weave the large hanging nests from strands of palm leaves or raffia. Once their eggs hatch, the mothers will feed her chicks for up to a year while the offspring perfect their food-finding skills.

Sunbitterns tend to be more quiet and shy than many of their rainforest neighbors. Photo: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo

Unlike the bold, loud and social oropendolas and caciques, the sunbitterns prefer some quiet solitude when raising their young. The pair of sunbitterns in the TRF dome became first time parents this past year, raising a male chick. These birds have well-camouflaged plumage with thin flexible necks and long pointy beaks for catching their favorite foods, which include insects, fish and frogs. At the zoo their favorite foods are wax worms and small rodents.

The male Andean cock-of-the-rock is hard to miss with that bright orange plumage!  Photo: Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo

Winter time means breeding season is in full swing for our brilliantly-colored Andean cocks-of-the-rock. That means our two bright orange males are competing with each other for the attention of the new female in the dome. The mating displays of the males usually involve some loud squawking and feather flourishing—and that bright coloration will certainly help attract attention. The more muted female—she is more brownish in color—will typically choose the male with the “loudest” display.

The female Andean cock-of-the-rock is more of a brown color. Photo: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo

Around the corner from the aviary dome, we have a couple of birds that are new to our Tropical Rainforest building, settling into one of the indoor habitat areas: a pair of plush-crested jays! These striking and entertaining birds are omnivorous, meaning they have a varied diet that includes fruits and insects.

Plush-crested jays have both striking looks and intelligence! Photo: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo

Jays are part of the larger “family” of uber-intelligent birds that includes crows, ravens and magpies. Our animal keepers will often hide bugs in bags, boxes, puzzle feeders and chunks of grass or scatter them around the exhibit to keep these smart, active birds busy and engaged. The keepers are also doing some training with these jays using positive reinforcement and their favorite insect treats! Offering a tasty incentive to come down to a particular perch is part of a training process where they will voluntarily step onto a scale—an important part of monitoring their health.

An adult sunbittern and its chick. Photo: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo

Again, we hope to be able to welcome you back inside the building sometime in the near future and we’ll be sure to make a public announcement about a schedule for that as soon as we can. In the meantime, we hope you’ve enjoyed this “look” inside the Tropical Rainforest.


Mark said…
I am anxious to visit the tropical rainforest building again. Always a favorite.