Brookfield Zoo opens new tropical birds exhibit

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040516-wls-birds4-vid (WLS)

At Brookfield Zoo in the birds and reptiles building, an old exhibit has been retired, and a new exhibit has opened.

The curtain is going up on a new way to look at birds at Brookfield Zoo. It's in the Feathers and Scales Building, but this exhibit is obviously is all about feathers - South American tropical birds in a new home that, as closely as possible, resembles their home sweet home.

"Everything you see here is natural, all the plants... the soil... the birds - everything here is, it's basically a rain forest transported to Chicago," said Tim Snyder, curator of birds, Brookfield Zoo.

At morning feeding time, you'll see the most activity, usually around noon. It's a simple rainforest diet that so far has kept the birds happy and healthy. The 40 new residents all seem to be doing well.

"We have got 11 species in here, from small tanagers to large Currasows and... very exciting, very different species, very different habitats," Snyder said.

For almost 20 years, this was a desert exhibit featuring the creatures of the southwest. But that space became too small for the growing population of animals. So along came this rainforest, which can hold many more animals in the same area and also give the viewers a better look at the wild side.

One of the neat things for viewers about the exhibit is that it's open-air viewing. No net, no screen. It's just you and the rainforest and the tropical birds.

"You get an unhampered view of the animals. There's no mesh between you and the animals, and if it's a quiet day, the birds can actually come out into the public area and go for walk about," Snyder said.

But they always go back at night.

"They know where home is, and they know where the food is," Snyder said.

They say the 40 birds are starting to breed. So that population could soar like a bird.
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