Friends of the Aviary

History of the Aviary

At the turn of the century, Thomas Gould left $3,000 of his estate to the Hamilton Zoological Society for a specific purpose “to make the Dundurn Park Zoo more attractive for little children”. The money was invested while the Society pondered its use. In May, 1927, when the sum had grown to $5,000, the Society decided to remodel the animal house at the Zoo and turn it into an aviary. The Hamilton Parks Board agreed to do the work and the Society agreed to find the birds.

With the help of Dr. Crandell, curator of the Buffalo Zoo, the plans were approved in September 1927. The aviary was opened on June 1, 1928. William L. Hayes was the first supervisor. Mrs. W.D. Christenson of Port Nelson and the Hamilton Bird Society donated the first birds. The collection continued to grow and was looked after by Parks Department employees.

In 1992, faced with budget cuts, the City of Hamilton decided to eliminate the staff positions and close the Aviary. Local bird lovers met with City staff and proposed that volunteers keep the Aviary open. Newspaper ads attracted volunteers and in June 1992 the “Friends of Dundurn Aviary” was established.

On July 1, 1992 the “Friends” took over the running of the Aviary. In the summer of 1995, due to extensive historical restoration efforts at the castle, the flock was moved temporarily to an unoccupied police station for the duration of the work. In the spring of 1996, it became apparent that the birds would not be returning to their home of 70 years at the castle. This started a frantic search involving visits to many sites, with and without buildings, that might make a suitable home. At this time the Royal Botanical Gardens (RBG) was centralizing most activities to its Main Centre and their site known as the Teaching Gardens was being vacated. Because of the many features suited to the Aviary at this location, the City and the RBG agreed to a multi-year lease and the Aviary was moved July of 1996. Volunteers worked hundreds of hours to prepare the site. Indoor and outdoor cages were built and today, the Aviary continues in a new home, in a beautiful park setting.

Who are the “Friends of the Aviary”?

This is a wonderfully dedicated volunteer group, drawn from all walks of life, devoted to the preservation and advancement of the Aviary and the care and breeding of its birds.

Principle Aims are:

  1. To maintain a vibrant, healthy aviary exhibit, planned and managed in a practical fashion by volunteers, which will attract, educate and delight visitors, and be a source of pride for the City of Hamilton.
  2. To use the Aviary and its birds as an educational tool to improve awareness of nature to the general public.
  3. To work within the zoological and avicultural communities to improve the status of threatened and endangered species through captive breeding.
  4. To educate volunteers in many aspects of the care and breeding of captive birds.

What does the flock include?

The Aviary holds a mixed collection of birds. These include large parrots, smaller parrots and parakeets (including common pet species, as well as rarer and more exotic), many species of finches and doves. At present we are not equipped to handle softbills or waterfowl in any numbers, nor do we house birds of prey.

How can I participate as a volunteer?

You can call the “Friends of the Aviary” at (905) 546-2424 ext. 4842. Please leave a message on the answering machine, and provide your name, phone number and the purpose of your call. A volunteer will contact you to discuss your participation.

What qualifications do I need?

All you need is a love of birds and have 2 or 3 hours of free time every week or two. No experience with birds is required – we will teach you on the job! If you have respiratory problems, bad allergies or immune system problems please let us know. Some of the work can be dusty!

What kind of jobs can I do?

There are many different jobs available to you as a Friend of the Aviary. You can spend as little as 2-3 hours every second week, or as much time as you have, working with and for the birds.

The following are some of the ways that you can help:

  • Care and Feeding of the Birds: This is a basic job. Every day of the year a team of volunteers arrives each morning to clean the Aviary and put out fresh food and water.
  • Aviary Maintenance: A crew meets regularly on weekday evenings to perform repairs or upgrades to the Aviary.
  • Breeding Committee: A committee which co-ordinates the breeding of the birds at the Aviary. Jobs include nest box installation, record keeping, bird banding and hand rearing of baby birds.
  • Health Committee: A committee meets regularly to oversee preventative and emergency health care of the birds.
  • Visitor Guides: If you like people as well as birds, this may be for you. Visitor Guides show visitors around the Aviary, identify the birds and explain the operations of the Aviary.
  • Newsletter: Write for our bi-monthly newsletter.

So what’s in it for me?

Not only will you be helping the birds, and helping the City of Hamilton preserve a landmark institution, you will certainly make new friends, learn a lot about birds, and, if you’re already an expert, enjoy the experience of of teaching people about birds. You will also get to know birds that you might not have the time, the money or the space to keep yourself. Come join us!

How to get there:

Located in west Hamilton on Oak Knoll Drive. From Hamilton centre, the mountain and the east, follow King Street westward to the stoplight at Marion Avenue. Turn right, continuing around the bend to The Aviary.

From Ancaster, Dundas and west, follow Main Street eastward, left on Haddon, across King and Sterling Streets to the Aviary.

From Burlington and points east and north, take Plains Road, exit from the QEW. Continue on Plains Road, which becomes York Boulevard (Hwy. 2) to Hamilton. Turn right on Dundurn Street and right again on King Street West to the stoplight at Marion Avenue. Turn right, continuing around the bend to the Aviary.