Holiday Giving Tree

November is here, which means the holidays are upon us. We can think of no better way to kick-off the winter season than a celebration! On November 21st, we will host Birds & Brew: Holiday Edition. This event will feature beer, birds and most importantly, the launch of our annual Holiday Giving Tree, which runs from November 22 - January 15.


See Our Wishlist Here   



What is enrichment, anyway? 

Put simply, enrichment is a way for keepers to give animals the opportunity to express their natural behaviors through physical or mental stimulation. Here at Tracy Aviary, our goal is to encourage a wide range of species-appropriate natural behaviors for our birds.  Our keepers focus on identifying natural behaviors that are unique to each species, such as foraging, stalking, manipulating, calling, displaying, and problem-solving, and then create items or experiences that encourage the birds to engage in these behaviors.




What is the Holiday Giving Tree, and how does it help with enrichment? 

Our keepers have an extensive list of items that they know the birds use and enjoy, or items that keepers would like to introduce to see if they can encourage natural behaviors from the birds.  This list is compiled into an Amazon Smile wish list that our bird-loving visitors can browse through, like a gift registry, and select fun items to send to our beloved birds.  Each item has been selected with care by our keeper staff and is bird-safe and bird-approved. Some things to remember while shopping for your feathered friends:

  • Order items through Amazon, they ship directly to us
  • Leave contact info during check-out… each year we wrap up the HGT with a raffle, where up to 5 donors are randomly selected to win the opportunity for a unique behind-the-scenes experience with our Aviculture department.  For every $15 donated, you will be entered one time into the raffle.  One week after the end of the HGT, winners will be randomly selected from the raffle and will be contacted directly by our staff to arrange their unique experience.



What started the Holiday Giving Tree? 

Our staff are all incredibly dedicated to the birds that live here and want to give them the best possible life. This means doing everything we can to ensure good welfare. Enrichment is a huge part of providing for our birds' welfare, so our keepers try to provide a lot of it!  We are lucky to know that our guests are just as passionate, and many of our visitors want to contribute in some way, but don’t always know the best way to do so. That is how the Holiday Giving Tree was born! This resource is a way for our guests to provide something meaningful directly to our birds in a safe way that they can be sure will be well-received.  All of the items on our Amazon wish list are bird safe and bird approved! It is also a fun learning experience for our guests, because it allows them to get to know our birds a little bit better… for example, did you know that Epic, one of our Southern ground hornbills, loves Kong toys and other durable, squeaky dog toys?




Whats on our birds' holiday wish list?

So what are our birds asking for this holiday? Not everything on the Holiday Giving Tree wish list has an obvious use or purpose, but all of them qualify as enrichment and are geared toward specific needs or wants of the birds.  Dog toys and puzzle feeders have a fairly clear purpose, but may not be as enriching for our birds who prefer nesting materials for hideouts or nesting places.  Our keepers label every item on the Amazon wish list with a brief description, so that as you are browsing, you can select items based on the birds that might want them or the intention of the item.

 Larger asks:

  • Soft-sided kennels make transporting birds to and from their veterinary appointments safe and comfortable for the birds.  Think of them as the bird equivalent of a child’s car seat… sometimes you just need to travel, and you want them to be as safe, calm, and comfortable as possible during that process. 
  • Cameras allow us to see behaviors that we wouldn’t be able to observe if we were standing in the room, watching the birds.  People experience this at home, too—there are products that allow you to check in at home and experience what your dog or cat does while you are on vacation or away at work, and what you find out can be surprising!  We can use cameras to find out where the birds spend their time at night, whether or not they are more active while we’re gone for the evening, and we can even see what’s happening inside of a nest while a bird is incubating eggs or raising chicks! Just this year, the use of a nest-camera helped us save two superb starling chicks, which we hand-raised when we found out that their parents weren’t giving them the resources they needed to survive and thrive.  Now we have two healthy young starlings, and we know to address the issues we were seeing with the parents and can strategize how to give the parents the resources they need to become more successful parents in the future.
  • Sensory boards are a new concept that our keeper team is dying to try with our kea flock!  Our guests know just how fun, active, and inquisitive our kea are, but how do we keep up with birds that have the never-ending energy of a toddler?  Well, we try a lot of the same ideas that parents of toddlers might try, such as sensory boards!  A sensory board might allow our inquisitive, energetic kea to explore new textures, sounds, movements, and sights, and will encourage more problem solving and other natural behaviors.

Smaller asks:

  • Nesting material is a huge hit with a large portion of our birds!  Every species has a unique nesting strategy, but a majority of them involve designing a nest that is structurally sound and lined with soft materials that chicks can snuggle into to stay safe and warm.  Coconut fiber and raffia are insanely popular with birds such as our superb starlings, white-headed buffalo weavers, crested oropendolas, scarlet-faced liocichlas, metallic starlings, and more!
  • Canvases and paints are fun tools that we use in enrichment sessions that get the keepers involved as part of the enriching process.  Being interactive with their keeper can be rewarding to birds such as our Southern ground hornbill flock, our king vultures, or our artistic Bird Show cast.  Not only are these sessions rewarding for the birds, but they’re rewarding for the keepers, and the paintings are put out for sale in our Nature Store so that guests can enjoy them.
  • Dog toys such as kong products, puzzle feeders, and rope toys are enriching for some of our larger predatory birds, such as vultures and hornbills, who benefit from expressing the natural behavior of hitting, tearing, or slamming toys against the ground.


There are so many ways you can help this holiday season. We would like to thank our guests and patrons that choose to help our beautiful birds. For tickets and details for Birds & Brew: Holiday Edition, please click the link below:

For more chances to make our birds' holiday bright, join us for our members-only enrichment making night on December 18th, or a family friendly enrichment day on December 14th, after the Christmas Bird Count! Stay tuned for details. 



- Allison Connair, Primary Aviculturist