A year in the aviary at Waddesdon Manor

See what happens in our Aviary over the course of a year, from new baby birds hatching to keeping aviary cages neat and tidy.

A male hooded pitta bird from the aviary at Waddesdon Manor, Buckinghamshire

January in the aviary 

With short days and potentially cold nights, we ensure that some of the more sensitive birds are using their heated indoor houses to roost. Many of the species in the Aviary are found in cooler regions of the tropics, and as they're all bred in captivity in Europe, they are acclimatised to the UK weather. When sub-zero temperatures are predicted, more sensitive birds, such as the hooded pitta, are shut inside overnight to keep them safe and warm.

Birds in the Aviary at Waddesdon Manor, a National Trust property in Buckinghamshire

February in the aviary 

The Aviary team spend a lot of time at the beginning of the year getting young birds paired up, either within the collection or by transferring to other zoos in Europe, ready for the breeding season. We are a member of the European Association of Zoo and Aquaria (EAZA), and many of the species are part of their ex-situ conservation breeding programmes. Our team manage two of these programmes for the hooded pitta and Rothschild's peacock-pheasant.

Baby birds being hand reared at Waddesdon Manor, Buckinghamshire

March in the aviary 

With the start of the breeding season, the spectacled laughingthrush will be one of the first to build a nest. This species has recently been upgraded to 'Near Threatened' status. Before Easter, the top layer of substrate in all the aviaries is removed and replaced with fresh mix and mulch, which prevents parasites building up in the soil. The whole aviary structure is checked for damage and the metalwork and gold leaf are carefully cleaned.

A Rothschild Peacock-pheasant chick in the Aviary at Waddesdon Manor, a National Trust property in Buckinghamshire

April in the aviary 

Depending on the weather, many of the birds in the aviary will start courtship and nesting. The team start to encourage this behaviour b increasing live food variety, and adding nest sites and nesting material in the aviaries. Species like collared-hill partridge and Rothschid's peacock-pheasant will be some of the first to lay eggs.

A blue crowned laughing thrush from the Aviary at Waddesdon Manor

May in the aviary 

The busies months for the Aviary are just beginning. The critically endangered blue-crowned laughingthrush pairs will have started nest building and will often have chicks hatching. Once pairs start feeding chicks, the Aviary team will be placing live food in at regular intervals throughout the day to ensure the birds have a plentiful supply to feed their chicks.

The Aviary at Waddesdon Manor during spring time

June in the aviary 

Now in the height of the breeding season, most of the birds will be nesting, some pairs will be on their second clutch of eggs. The team will be busy ensuring pairs have enough food to feed their chicks, closely monitoring what is happening in nests, checking eggs for fertility in incubators and busy hand-rearing chicks.

A baby bird in the Aviary at Waddesdon Manor, Buckinghamshire

July in the aviary 

Chicks being hand-reared we will feed every hour from 6am to 11pm. Species such as the spectacular fairy bluebird will be hatching chicks during this month.

A family of Rothschild Mynah birds from the aviary at Waddesdon Manor, Buckinghamshire

August in the aviary 

This is still a very busy month with the final wave of breeding. The team will discuss which species they still need to encourage to breed, and work out ways in which to achieve this. The Rothschild Mynah, Waddesdon Manor's mascot species 'Mimi the Mynah', which is 'critically endangered' in the wild, are like to be feeding chicks.

A moustached laughing chick from the aviary at Waddesdon Manor, Buckinghamshire

September in the aviary 

The end of the breeding season is upon us, the majority of chicks will have fledged and be on their way to independence. With many of the pairs finished breeding for the year, they will start their annual moult, replacing worn feathers with bright new ones.

The Aviary in autumn, Waddesdon Manor, Buckinghamshire

October in the aviary 

With Autumn well under way, the Aviary team gather up fallen leaves and place them into the aviaries for enrichment. The birds will spend a lot of time foraging, turning leaves looking for insects as they would in the wild.

An aviary keeper pruning inside the flights at Waddesdon Manor, Buckinghamshire

November in the aviary 

Nest sites will be removed to ensure birds are not attempting to breed when temperatures are starting to lower. Although it is important that the aviaries are densely planted to encourage breeding and ensure the birds feel secure, the aviary plants will be carefully pruned to allow visitors to see the fantastic species' within, and provide the birds with plenty of areas to sunbathe.

The aviary in winter at Waddesdon Manor, Buckinghamshire

December in the aviary 

All of the aviaries inside shelters have timed lighting that dims in the evening to stimulate sunset, which gives the birds an extra few hours to feed and sufficient time to roost. This is important with the cold dark night's drawing in.