What you should know when you visit an aviary.

Text by Amelita Lupena Escalona
With editing by CFB

What is an aviary? The term came from the Latin word for birds, ‘avis’, and the suffix ‘-ary’, which means ‘a place’. Thus an aviary is ‘a place for birds’.

Unlike birdcages for pets, aviaries are large enough places to alow captive birds room to fly around. It is a large cage or house or enclosure in which birds are kept. It is a place where bird breeders home the birds they intend to keep and breed.

Many—from kids, teenagers, and parents to retirees—love birds, and often intend to keep birds without any know-how. Everything starts with acquiring a pair of birds, and sometimes, they acquire more than they can handle. Thus they dream of visiting prominent breeders to learn how aviaries are kept and perhaps, how to eventualy breed their birds.

They are so eager to visit established bird breeders’ aviaries but at times they are unaware of the right things to do as their enthusiasm surpasses common sense—or they many not know what to do.

Bird breeders have aviaries to home and breed birds with the intent of producing quality progeny. Naturally, bird breeders are very cautious and careful with their breeding stocks. Yet since new breeders need to go to established breeders to begin their own operations, there must be a middle ground where their right to learn does not trample on the established breeders’ right to healthy, undisturbed stock.

Here’s what you can—and should not—do in an aviary; consider this your basic guide to etiquette when there.

Never just show up at a breeder’s place. Phone ahead and schedule a time for your visit.

Breeders are busy people who will need to make arrangements in their aviaries prior to your arrival. Birds could be in their breeding time and any disturbances may cause interruptions in their breeding. It’s not that the breeder is hiding anything; their priority will always be the safety of their stock.

Avoid pointing at everything and waving your arms around. The birds are already aware of a stranger in their midst, so there is no point in stressing them further with sudden, threatening movements.

Remember, you are not in your own aviary, and the birds are not familiar with you. You are a stranger to them and your presence and any untoward movements can cause panic among them, thus disturbing their peaceful routines.

Never, ever reach into cages or inspect nests without permission. Since the birds don’t know you, if you open nest boxes, breeding birds can be frightened and fly out of the nest box; this increases the chances of mortality if there are eggs or babies inside. Any disturbances can interrupt their breeding or routines. Respect the residents of the nest boxes.

Refrain from smoking while in the aviary, especially cigars. Second-hand smoke is dangerous to health, even with birds. We are all entitled to clean air, and our birds are so precious to us, the owners. They need to stay healthy so that we can have good stock.

Do not criticize anyone else’s birds. You might be thinking “If that were my bird, I wouldn’t even use it in soup!” Think whatever you like; however, do not say it. Depending upon the degree of friendship you have with the aviary owner, you can give advice, especially if you are asked for it. Suggest, but don’t criticize. It is my own belief that criticism, no matter how wel intended, is still criticism even if it is called “constructive criticism.” Try to be helpful, tactful, and diplomatic.

Bird breeders will always consider their birds the best; sometimes, they compare their birds with those in aviaries they visit and criticize the latter. They should clarify things first before jumping to conclusions. (For experienced breeders and nonbeginners) Use the time in the aviary to discuss the birds. Avoid gossip as this can destroy friendships and clubs very quickly.

Remember, you arranged to visit an aviary because of your interest in birds. So make sure not to waste any of your precious time or the breeder’s. Try to keep the discussion about the birds. If the breeder is so accommodating and generous with his or her knowledge, s/he will surely share his or her secrets with you for maintaining a successful and productive aviary. Not all bird breeders accept visits as these can disturb the birds. Be humble and thankful enough that you were welcomed to their aviary, so maximize your visit to make it fruitful.

This appeared in Animal Scene’s February 2016 issue.