Located in the picturesque village of Desford, near Leicester in England, Tropical Birdland is home to more than 250 birds, including a collection of free-flying parrots from all over the world. Visitors will have the opportunity to stroll at leisure through the main walk-through aviary, view newly hatched or hatching chicks, interact with birds on Parrot Path, and take a walk on the wild side along the Woodland Walk, with the possibility of seeing kingfishers, jays, woodpeckers and squirrels among the trees and shrubs.
Tropical Birdland opened to the public in 1984, when Richard Hopper decided to turn his hobby into a business. With breeding of endangered species as one of the park’s main goals, aviaries were built and rare species were added to the growing collection of birds housed at the facilities. In 1992, Hopper started training birds for free flight, with his very first bird, a blue and gold macaw named Jackie, being the first to take flight. Today, several parrots and macaws spend their days out in the open with the option of free flight, returning to their sleeping quarters each night.
Among the rare and unusual birds at Tropical Birdland is a pair of highly endangered hyacinth macaws (Anodorhynchus hyacinthinus). Found only in the wetlands of the Pantanal – the world’s largest tropical wetland area found in Brazil, Bolivia and Paraquay – and some areas of the Amazon jungle in Brazil, this spectacularly beautiful species is the largest, and quite likely the strongest, parrot species in the world. As with many bird species around the world, their continued existence in the wild is threatened by deforestation as humans turn their habitat into farmland.
Other exotic birds housed at Tropical Birdland include the blue and gold macaw (Ara ararauna), the green-winged macaw (Ara chloroptera), the bare-eyed cockatoo (Cacatua sanguinea), the Galah cockatoo (Eolophus roseicapillus), and the black-headed caique (Pionites melanocephala), as well as the kea parrot (Nestor notabilis) and the snowy owl (Bubo scandiacus).
Tropical Birdland also features a restaurant, picnic area and play park, making it the perfect venue for a family outing in the English countryside.
Irrigation canals constitute an important nesting site for several aquatic bird species and have slowly transformed into an excellent natural habitat over the passing decades. Several wild aquatic bird species such as Canada geese (Branta canadensis L.; Fig 1) and mallard ducks (Anas platyrhynchos L.; Fig 2) have in particular found such canals as important nesting, resting, breeding and foraging sites across the Canadian Prairies. The lush vegetation that accompanies irrigation canals traversing across the municipalities and rural districts provides excellent nesting and hiding sites for the breeding aquatic species; while the water in the irrigation canal serves as important foraging ground. The dense vegetation protects the nests, eggs and nestlings from a host of predators making their breeding a success story across the Prairies.
The security of the bushes and the abundant supply of food, water, foraging and nesting resources have made certain stretches of the intricate network of irrigation canal a bold success story for several such aquatic bird species. During the breeding season large flocks are seen to be approaching the canal nesting sites in good numbers both by the mallards (Fig 3) and the Canada geese (Fig 4). Although a number of predatory birds and mammals do also nest in nearby trees (Fig 4) and bushes and woods to take advantage of the yearly bounty; particularly the highly vulnerable nestlings and fledglings such as the young and defenseless ducklings and goslings.
However, the greater number and close guards by the caring parents do not actually impact the species population and is in particular nature’s own monitoring in keeping the population under check (Figs 5-6). Hence, in a broader term a healthy and thriving population of the ducks and the geese actually positively contributes towards the stable population of the predatory birds and mammals too; further extending the success of the irrigation canals to other wildlife species. In addition to the mallards and Canada geese or black geese, other species of ducks and geese (such as the grey and white geese) are also known to take advantage of the refuge of the irrigation canal habitats along their annual migration routes. Several other non-aquatic bird species like the different black birds (Fig 5) that inhabit the ecotones between land and water also take advantage of the natural habitats produced by the irrigation canals.
Hence, the construction and development of the large network of irrigation canals across the Prairies have been an excellent natural resource that has been helping in building the population of local birds and in directly contributing towards establishing a sustainable environment. However, it will be important in future to do extensive bird surveys in and adjacent to such artificial habitats for monitoring the bird population and in better understanding the nature and behaviors of different species that have been intelligently using such available resources to their advantage. It is often interesting to note that anthropogenic activities that impact wildlife species so negatively could also have positive impacts in some other ways. It will be therefore important for us to learn from the experience and develop our future technologies in a pro-nature or environment friendly fashion so that we could effectively curb our foot prints on the nature and also successfully reduce our impacts on the population of different wild species of birds.
Prime nesting and foraging habitats of Canada geese adjoining irrigation canals are pictured below (Fig 7-8).
Article contributed by Saikat Kumar Basu