Referred to locally as “The Peacock Farm”, Beale Wildlife Park and Gardens was founded in 1956 as a private park by Gilbert Beale – a collector and breeder of peacocks, many of which still roam freely in the park today. Located alongside the River Thames between the villages of Lower Basildon and Pangbourne in Berkshire, England, Beale Wildlife Park offers a spectacular venue for a day of family fun, with landscaped gardens and woodland, children’s play areas and an impressive collection of farm animals, small exotic animals and a variety of birds, including some that are threatened with extinction, such as the Bali Starling, Green Peafowl and Mountain Peacock Pheasant.
The Bali Starling, also known as Bali Mynah and Rothschild’s Mynah (Leucopsar rothschildi) is a medium sized bird, almost completely white in color apart from black tips on the wings and rail. It has blue skin around its eyes, with grey-colored legs and a yellow bill. There is very little difference between the male and female. As the name suggests, the Bali Starling is endemic to the Island of Bali in Indonesia. It is the official fauna symbol of Bali and is featured on Indonesia’s coinage.
Found in the tropical forests of Southeast Asia, the Green Peafowl (Pavo muticus) is a strikingly beautiful bird. In breeding season, the male develops its colorful upper tail which extends up to two meters when fanned out and is decorated with ocelli “eye spots”. Outside of breeding season, the male and female are similar in appearance, but nonetheless still eye-catching with their iridescent coloring. The Mountain Peacock-Pheasant (Polyplectron inopinatum) is a blackish-brown pheasant with long graduated tail feathers and small ocelli. Endemic to the Malay Peninsula’s mountain forests, the numbers of these attractive and elusive birds are dwindling primarily due to habitat loss.
In addition to viewing these interesting birds, visitors to Beale Park will enjoy the many themed aviaries scattered around the venue, including the Madagascan aviary and the owlery, as well as African, Australian and Asian aviaries.
The zoological collection at the park has a number of unusual inhabitants, including Tamarinds, Meerkats, Capybaras, Wallabies and Arapawa Goats. The Beale Railway takes visitors on a tour of the park, while the play area keeps the little ones busy and the on-site restaurant provides refreshments. Be sure to check out the new Pirate Island at the park. Certainly, an outing to Beale Park Wildlife Park and Gardens offers an educational and entertaining outing for the whole family.
The Gray Hawk (Asturina nitida) is a small raptor that is 15 inches in length and has a wingspan of 35 inches. It is predominantly gray in color, with its throat and belly being white with barred gray coloring. Its upper tail coverts are white and it has very pale colored plumage under its wings. The Gray Hawk is resident to the southwestern United States regions, Mexico, Arizona, Central Argentina and Brazil.
Gray Hawks prefer to live in forests and woodland areas. It is not unusual to see them in agricultural fields, savanna trees and in open patches between forests. They prey on small animals, birds and snakes, and stalk their prey from perches in the trees. Once a prey animal has been sighted, the Grey Hawk will swoop down from the tree and catch its meal. Hawks are also known to hunt for prey, while gliding low to the ground, and are very agile hunters. They can maneuver themselves through the trees very swiftly. Nests are built high up in the trees from sticks, and are lined with leaves. Both the male and female will participate in the construction of the nest; of which the male will build the foundation of the nest, and the female will construct the bowl. The female hawk will lay between one to three white eggs that can sometimes be marked with red and pale blue. Only the female Grey Hawk takes part in the incubation of the eggs; however, the male provides her with food for the first two weeks. The incubation period is approximately 33 days. After the two weeks, the female is able to participate in hunting. It has not been established exactly how long it takes the chicks to be able to hunt. The chicks fledge the nest at approximately six weeks.
In Texas and Arizona, the Gray Hawk is considered a threatened species, even though is does not have an official conservation status. It is the low population numbers that have led these areas to implement conservation programs around the Gray Hawk, and to monitor breeding pairs. These projects can be very beneficial to the over sensitive Gray Hawks. They are known to be very skittish, and will sometimes abandon their nests as a result of an innocent domestic disturbance, such as a picnic that is held too close for comfort.
The Mississippi Kite or as it is scientifically known, the Ictinia mississippiensis, is 12.5 inches long and has a wingspan of 36 inches, weighing between 7 and a half to 12 ounces. Both the male and female are similar in size. It is a medium-sized, long-winged hawk and is known for its graceful movements. The wings of the Mississippi kite are long and pointed and the tail is long and squared-off at the end. The beak is dark in color, short and hooked.
The adult kite has a pale grey head with a dark mask at the lores. The breast, under wing, belly and under tail coverts are also gray. The gray becomes darker on its back, primaries, upper wing coverts and upper tail coverts. Above the kite you can see its pale silvery grey secondaries and when it is flying you can notice its black flight feathers and black tail.
The juvenile Mississippi kite has a streaked, brownish head with a pale superciliary line. The young bird has a dark brown back and upper wing and a dark tail with distinct white bands going across it. The breast, under wing coverts and belly are streaked heavily with a rich brown colour. As the juvenile gets older its head and breast start looking grey like the adult bird with a few remnants of the brown colour. The under wing continues to be streaked heavily with brown and the dark tail and white bands remain.
Another species that is similar to the Mississippi kite is the Black-shouldered kite, which is also medium sized and shape but the breast and tail are whiter and not so grey in color. Kites have a similar body structure to the falcon but the head patterns differ a lot. From a distance the Northern Harrier can look similar and is differentiated only by its pale broad under wings and its white rump.
The Mississippi Kite can be found roosting and making nests in woodlands and in tree clusters. The kite prefers the edge of the woodland, grasslands, human-altered areas, savannas, farms and towns to hunt in. In summer you will find the Mississippi kite mainly in the Southern part of the United States and then in winter you will find it migrating as far south as northern Argentina.
The Cyrtonyx montezumae, or as it is more commonly known, the Montezuma quail, is seven inches in length and is a small, shy, stocky bird with round wings. It also has a short, rounded brown tail and is basically a ground-dwelling bird. This bird is mainly a Mexican species and can be found along the entire length of the western side of the country. The northern range of its territory goes into southern Arizona and New Mexico where they can be found in many small groups scattered in different mountain ranges. There are also small groups scattered in West Texas.
The adult male Montezuma quail has an attractive black and white harlequin face patterning and a dark brown belly. The male has a reddish-brown crest that goes backwards and covers his entire nape. The side of his breast and his flanks are a grey color with white spots speckled all over and the main part of his breast being a rich brown. His back is a dark brown with many reddish-brown colored streaks painted on and his wing coverts are also a brown color but have solid black spots to break the brown. Although the male has such decorative and bold patterning he is still relatively hard to spot, let alone study and census.
The female quail has an overall duller brown plumage in comparison to the male, with dark upper parts. She has the same black and white face patterning as the male but it is a more mottled brown and reddish-brown color. Like the male she also has a reddish-brown colored crest that covers the nape and she is touched all over with reddy-white streaks. The Montezuma quail is unlike any other quail because of its plumage and head shape. The female is however similar to the female Northern Bobwhite but the Montezuma quail has a darker belly.
These quails are secretive birds and it takes one quite a while to spot them in the grassy oak woodlands in the American Southwest and western Mexico. These beautiful birds in America are under threat because of the extensive habitat degradation and destruction that has taken place as well as the increased hunting that is taking place. Conservation efforts are being made to ensure the survival of a number of species of quails, including the fascinating Montezuma Quail.
Known for being the smallest of all birds, the Bee Hummingbird (Mellisuga helenae) weighs only about 1.8 grams and is about 5 cm (2 inches) in length. The male of the species is smaller than the female and it is only found on Isle of Pines and in Cuba. Unfortunately this pretty little bird is classified as Threatened due to diminishing numbers in more recent years. The decrease in Bee Hummingbird populations have been brought about mainly by loss of habitat due to crop farming, timber felling and livestock farming. These forms of human encroachment have negatively impacted on the subtropical and tropical forests and swamplands that sustain the Bee Hummingbird, causing the bird to be confined to limited suitable habitats.
The male Bee Hummingbird has spectacular coloring. His entire head and throat are an iridescent red-pink and he has elongated lateral plumes. The top of his body is bluish in color while his underparts are a grayish white. These colors only become evident during breeding season and are shed shortly afterward. Non-breeding males have blue spots on their wingtips and black tail tips which helps to differentiate them from the females which have white spots on their tail feathers. The female is less spectacularly colored, having only a blue-green back and grayish underbelly and generally looking somewhat disheveled.
Despite its diminutive size, the Bee Hummingbird is an amazing creature. In flight it beats its wings as many as 80 times per a second. What’s more, when it is involved in a courtship display a male hummingbirds wings may beat as many as 200 times per a second! In order to pump blood around its tiny little body, the Bee Hummingbird’s heart rate is spectacularly fast. In fact, it is the second fastest of all animals. It has less feathers than all other birds, as well as the highest body temperature of all birds, eating up to half its body mass in one day. It also drinks plenty of water – consuming roughly eight times its body mass on a daily basis. The Bee Hummingbird eats mainly nectar and insects, nesting in woodlands, shrubbery and gardens.