80th Anniversary: Janeal's Story

In honor of our 80th Anniversary this year, we have asked the community to think back and share their favorite memory of Tracy Aviary. Today's story is extra-special because it comes from Janeal Wilson, the daughter of Tracy Aviary's first Curator of Birds, Calvin D. Wilson.

My favorite life time memories of Tracy Aviary are not of the aviary itself, but of my father, Calvin D. Wilson who was superintendent of the aviary from its founding and Mr. Tracy’s first employee there. For several years our family lived in the aviary in the little house which once was an aquarium. At that time my dad was also the night watchman to insure the birds and animals were safe. We moved away the summer of 1953. 

I never heard my father say “I don’t want to go to work” or “I hate my job.” Daddy loved his job and enjoyed taking care of the birds and animals that were in the aviary.  When the weather was cold, raining, or super-hot, off he went with a feed bucket on his arm and a wheel barrow full of greens to take care of his birds. He shoveled snow off of the roofs of the cages in the winter and kept the walks in the aviary clear of snow. He also picked up the cotton candy papers and soda pop bottles left by visitors. 

Here are some of his many accomplishments which benefited the aviary, as well as Salt Lake City.   

  • He was the director of building the ‘flight cage’ which now is now the Kennecott Wetlands Immersion Exhibit. 
  • He arranged for Sea lions from California to be brought and cared for to enhance the children of Salt Lake City’s experience at the aviary.
  • One of his favorite cockatoos was ‘Snowflake’, a bare eye which he hand raised and used to carry around in the ‘bib’ of his overalls, he taught her not only to mimic (they don’t really talk), but also to colorfully swear, people used to love to hear her ‘talk’ & enjoy her antics. When she passed he didn’t tell us until she had been gone for several weeks, he truly missed that bird.
  • He favored a monkey called ‘Diana’, which was a Diana monkey and mourned her death. She too was a Tracy Aviary favorite.
  • He used to box with ‘Red’, the kangaroo, again entertaining the visitors.
  • He was instrumental in purchasing ‘Andy’, the Andean condor from the San Diego Zoo. Andy is alive and well today and entertains visitors on his walks. He had a cage of noisy and well-tended budgerigars and parakeets, numbering in the hundreds. A colorful menagerie again for the visitors enjoyment.He obtained a ‘Lynx’ from Tom Baines, Director of the Calgary Zoo (he and Tom became great friends).He raised a herd of Fallow deer.
  • He had Munjac deer (both at the aviary & at home). These cute little deer had many young to increase their numbers.He was noted for the ‘propagation’ of the Laysan Teal & the Pilipino Red-Vent cockatoo.
  • He provided a home for injured eagles, hawks, and other birds (now it is common place both at the aviary and the zoo).
  • He earned and was awarded a federal permit to care for birds on the restricted list such as the Lazuli Bunting.
  • He had mule deer who bore twins which he named “Bow” and “Elbow”,When he retired in 1970 there were over 25 Rosella cockatoos in the aviary.
  • He also wrote articles for a publication called the ‘Game Bird Breeders, Pheasant Fanciers, and Aviculturists Gazette’ which was locally published but shipped nationwide. 
  • He was on the Advisory Board of the Jean Delacour International Game Birds Park and Propagation Center in Salt Lake City headed by George A. Allen, Jr.

I consider myself extremely lucky and very proud to be Calvin D. Wilsons’ daughter. My father worked at the aviary for 38 years and was guaranteed a ‘job for life’. I was very proud of the fact a building in the aviary was dedicated to him. Thanks to Tim Brown and his talented wife, the building still stands and fills a need at the aviary. The building is called ‘The Calvin D. Wilson Bird Pavilion'."

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Thank you for sharing your precious memories with us, Janeal! Have a story of your own to share? Submit it to and it may be featured! 

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