May 27

Get Ready to Flamingle in the New Aviary

This summer, Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium will be giving visitors a whole new way to think pink.

 

Following a nearly $2 million renovation, the Lee G. Simmons Aviary is set to re-open late July with a brand-new entrance, a new boardwalk that loops so that visitors can enter and exit on the same end of the enclosure, visitor access to the ground-level, and a dedicated space on the Northwest side for some of the Zoo’s most entertaining and well-loved feathered friends: our flamingos.

The flock will enjoy such amenities as their own private pond and beach which will be lavishly landscaped to provide nesting and enrichment opportunities, as well as fruits and berries that other birds in the aviary can forage as they would in the flamingos’ native tropical habitats. Whereas in the past, they had to be moved to a holding building in another part of the Zoo in the winter months, now they will have year-round access to their private island paradise.

“The flamingos have always had acres and acres of space, which can make it challenging to encourage them to breed,” says Stephanie Huettner, assistant general curator and curator of birds at the Omaha Zoo, noting that the birds won’t be flight-restricted but that the space was designed to be so enticing that the flamingos will prefer to stay in their own neck of the aviary most of the time. “We think that by containing them in their own space, they may breed better.”

The Zoo has been home to American flamingos—the only species of the bird that naturally inhabits North America—since 1972, but in recent years the flock size has been relatively small. With the improvements to their habitat, we’ve been able to increase our flamingo population from eight birds to 30. Not only does that mean our aviary here in Omaha is going to be a sea of pink, but Huettner says that the new breeding opportunities and genetic diversity possibilities that it opens up have the potential to make a significant contribution to the population of this species in North America.

“One of the great things about flamingos is that they’re such an iconic bird. Everyone knows what they are and is excited to see them,” Huettner says. This star power makes them great ambassadors—for both the aviary and the environment. “While people are here they might get introduced to a new species of bird they’ve never seen before, or start rethinking some of their behaviors that might impact the shorelines where flamingo live and breed.”

Kiley Thiele, vice-president of development at the Omaha Zoo Foundation, says that Omaha’s passion for pink was in full effect during this spring’s animal adoption campaign when people were thrilled to have the chance to become ZooMamas and ZooDaddys to our flamingos. Now, there’s a whole new way to support our beautiful birds with our Become A Flockstar campaign, which is live now.

“Along with the big capital project of renovating our aviary, expanding our flock of flamingos will cost an additional $13,000, which includes everything from acquiring and transporting them to feeding them,” Thiele says. “We’re so grateful for the generosity of donors like Oriental Trading Company, who have supported the flock for years. We’d love to see the rest of the community show their support as well.”

We invite you to become a flockstar today by making a financial gift in any amount here. Thank you for helping our fabulous birds—and all our animals—stay in the pink!