Flocking together: Zoo lorikeets are set to migrate south

August 20, 2014 - 5:10pm

Colorful birds are heading to Palm Beach, Fla., as zoo preps for new education center

The Oregon Zoo's Lorikeet Landing, home to several species of the exotic and brilliantly hued birds, will close for the season as usual Sept. 30, but when it reopens next spring, some different residents will inhabit the space.

In early October, zoo animal-care staff will send more than 40 lorikeets to the Palm Beach Zoo and Conservation Society, setting the stage for the Oregon Zoo's next major campus improvement: a new conservation education center slated to open in spring 2017.

"We're glad that these beautiful birds will stay together in their new home in Florida."

—Gwen Harris, senior bird keeper

Construction on the center — the fifth of eight major projects funded by a community-supported 2008 bond measure — won't begin until next fall, but the opportunity to keep the colony of lorikeets together at another AZA-accredited zoo spurred animal-care staff to act now rather than wait another year.

"We're glad that these beautiful birds will stay together in their new home in Florida," said Gwen Harris, the zoo's senior bird keeper. "We'll miss them, and I know a lot of visitors will too. They're bright, colorful, noisy, smart animals. They all have distinct personalities, and they're a lot of fun to interact with. At the same time, I'm happy that Palm Beach is able to give them a good home. This was the right choice to make for the birds."

The open-air aviary, located near the zoo's Amur tiger habitat, will reopen in spring, housing bird species from other aviaries around the zoo. It will then close for good in the fall of 2015 as construction begins at the site.

"Lorikeet Landing has been a place where visitors can actually make contact with the birds when they swoop down to drink nectar out of cups," Harris said. "The new education center will also be interactive, which is something I'm very pleased about."

Highlights of the new space include a reimagined insect zoo and an interactive conservation-care lab. Visitors will learn how zoo scientists care for endangered animals and view the zoo's species-recovery lab, where rare western pond turtles are raised for release into the wild. Kids will get to practice some of the same animal-care activities as the zoo scientists in interactive play areas nearby.

Plans also call for an outdoor plaza with a learning garden, food and beverages and play areas for children. A flexible auditorium space will accommodate up to 150 people for lectures, documentary screenings and other conservation-focused community events.