Check out Bahrain's newest animal attraction, Birds Kingdom
Time Out Bahrain staff
Well they’re not exactly in the hand but in large, open enclosures. Liz O’Reilly took a stroll round Birds Kingdom, due to open in Amwaj this month, to find out what visitors can expect.
Several years in planning and building, a little behind schedule with the opening and with a main aviary that’s eight metres high, Birds Kingdom, at Amwaj, is a pretty impressive sight even for someone like me, who’s not a fan of birds in cages.
It houses the collection of Bahraini businessman Abdulaziz Jassim Kanoo under the watchful eye of chief birdman, aviculturist, Mike Gammond along with son David, who will shortly be taking over the reins as Mike takes a step back.
The collection is made up of around 400 to 500 birds numbering 70 different species, many of them rare and even critically endangered.
Mixed groups are in the large, well-ventilated and fan- and water-cooled aviaries, while breeding pairs are ranged around the edges in smaller enclosures complete with nesting boxes where, Mike will tell you, there’s one particular fellow, the silver cheeked hornbill native to South Africa, who actually uses a concrete-like mixture of poo, saliva and other yucky stuff to seal in his mate (in this heat!) for 140 days while she incubates their egg.
You’ll see the likes of the red-vented cockatoo - a critically endangered species of which there are fewer than 1,000 left in the wild - several species of macaw, most of which are also on the endangered list including the blue-throated macaw - native to Bolivia and with fewer than 150 thought to remain in the wild - silver and peacock pheasants, Moloccan, umbrella and tritan sulphur-crested cockatoos alongside Amazon and African grey parrots and double yellow-headed Amazons, which are popular pets as they are excellent talkers, Java peacocks, California quail, the world’s biggest pigeons and even one lonely toucan – he’s hopefully getting a mate soon!
Many of the birds have been bred and hand-raised by Mike, who removes them from the parents at a young age to give them a better chance of survival. And, though these birds are unlikely ever to be released back into the wild, by breeding, displaying and exporting them, Mike and Mr Kanoo are keen to educate people about them, conserve the species for future generations and discourage the practice of taking birds from the wild.
Palm cockatoo A Bahrain-bred palm cockatoo makes himself at home. There are two types of palm cockatoo at Amwaj, the smaller and the Goliath. As its name suggests the latter is a big fella which, at around 55 to 60cm, is thought to be the biggest cockatoo in its native Australia. It can also be found in Indonesia and Papua New Guinea but is endangered and appears on appendix one of CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species), to which Bahrain is not a signatory.
Major Mitchell cockatoo and bare eye cockatoo The Major Mitchell is another Australian native, though this time from the arid centre, and though not endangered, it is listed as vulnerable. The bare eye cockatoo, also known as the little corella, also comes from Australia where its soft white plumage made it a favourite with the aboriginal peoples both as a pet and for using its feathers in ceremonies. This pair are a cross-species bonding. The little bare eye has no toes but the Major Mitchell doesn’t seem to mind.
Victoria crowned pigeon One of three species of crowned pigeon, all have really funky hair-dos and are all on show at Birds Kingdom. Native to Papua New Guinea, these are the biggest pigeons in the world and have been widely hunted for both their head crests and their meat leaving them officially designated vulnerable. Both male and female incubate the eggs and a breeding pair of sister species the Scheepmaker currently has a baby in tow.
Silver pheasant As is common in the bird world, the male of this species gets the good looks and this guy, in the large main aviary, would be hard to miss. A native of mainland Southeast Asia, he’s a feisty little chap and pretty territorial, he was stalking our photographer when we visited. Keep your eyes open too for the golden pheasant, also in the main aviary, and some tortoises on the floor.
Hyacynth macaw These stunning creatures with their bright purple/blue plumage and yellow eye rings are on various endangered lists thanks to habitat loss in their native central and eastern South America and trapping for the pet trade. At 100cm in length the hyacynth macaw is the largest of the macaws and there are several breeding pairs on show to admire.Naturally curious, they may come over to the wire but you’re more likely to spot them sitting on their perches like pairs of exteremely beautiful bookends.
Scarlet Amazon Multi-coloured plumage and a great talking ability have led these macaws to suffer greatly through capture for the cage bird trade and, though still common in some areas of their South American homeland, in other areas they have been trapped to the point of extinction. There are a few pairs at Birds Kingdom which have previously produced eggs and the couple in our picture will happily say a squawking ‘hello’ if you stop by.
Behind the scenes A 12-week-old macaw gulps down his feed
A 12-week-old green Amazon waiting for a feed
Baby quail keep warm in an incubator
Mike and David Bird Kingdom is scheduled to open over Eid if the last few details are finalised. Keep an eye on Timeoutbahrain.com for updated details.