Celebrating Avian Life – Birds at Thirty 

 By Michell Svesve 

Great White Pelican

The World Migratory Bird Day was celebrated on the 9th Of October under the theme “Sing, Fly, Soar – Like a Bird”. The objective behind this theme was to educate people on migratory birds, as well as the necessity for international cooperation and involvement to conserve them.

It was with this objective in mind that The Ndeipi Team decided to join in on the commemorations by taking a day out to learn more about birds, their nature, origins, behaviours, and habitats, and in turn, raise awareness on bird conservation and its relevance to nature. What better way to do this, than visit Birds at Thirty, Zimbabwe’s exotic bird sanctuary nestled in the heart of Borrowdale, just a few minutes drive from the busy City Centre of Harare. 

Birds at Thirty is home to over 180 bird species consisting of numerous indigenous types as well as, tens of exotic birds whose nativity traces back to all the continents. The flock of bird species housed at Birds at Thirty range from the commonly known ducks, geese, cranes, and parrots to the rarest types that the sanctuary has tagged high risk as their populations dwindle due to several factors including bird trafficking and loss of habitat.

Upon arrival, Munya the tour guide together with Petrina welcomed me at the front of the establishment full of excitement and ready to take me on the insightful tour. The hospitable pair then proceeded to lead me to a pond, which was divided into a waterfowl pond and a Koi fish pond.

Insight at the waterfowl pond was a raft of White-Faced Whistling ducks, Yellow-billed ducks, a quartet of Black Neck swans, and two Pelicans, that are resident to Birds at Thirty. An occasional plump of Fulvous Whistling ducks, some that are not permanent residents of the sanctuary, could be spotted flying in and out of the pond. Impressively, all the waterfowl within the establishment seemed to coexist without any conflict. They were peaceful and at ease with each other as they moved in and out of the green waters without a struggle. As the day got warmer, from the edges of the pond, I could spot a duckling or two, resting under the shade of the balcony, close to their mother hen. 

Koi Fish Pond

The Koi fish pond was packed with different types of Koi fish with striking patterns and brightly coloured scales. Standing in the middle of the bridge, between the two ponds, I could only marvel at how wonderful nature is and yet this was just the beginning of a spectacular day at Birds at Thirty. 

After the informative session at the pond, adhering to all Covid-19 regulations, I was directed to the next phase of the tour, where a vast number of aviaries stood in front of me. From this vantage point, I could see and hear the birds singing harmoniously from all directions. The aviaries were strategically separated by well-manicured gardens. Within the birdhouses were trees, branches, and vegetation to complement the life of the birds within their enclosures.  As alluded to by Munya, Birds at Thirty have specifically tried to mimic each bird’s native environment, offering the birds a home away from home feel. 

The team at the bird sanctuary, work tirelessly to ensure that every bird is well taken care of. They have, for instance, installed an efficient spray system to regulate humidity levels for birds originating from tropical rainforests. A specific team of bird caretakers work around the clock, feeding the birds and making sure that their diets are balanced. Each species has a specific dietary requirement and since some of these birds are exotic, their diets play a vital role in preserving their natural features; for example, pigmentation in the Scarlet Ibis and Flamingo species. 

The caretakers are always on the move, maintaining each bird’s natural habitats and needs, it is for this reason that Birds at Thirty emphasize booking an appointment in advance so that once you arrive, you can experience a unique personalized tour. 

There was so much to learn and see that one visit was not enough to grasp it all. I learned that similar to a human’s fingerprints, the Macaw parrots have a specific print around their eyes that can be used to identify each bird. I was excited to meet the world’s second-largest bird by height, after the Ostrich, the Emu. Emu’s originate from Australia and they have a very distinctive plumage, whereby each follicle grows a double shafted feather. Additionally, the Emu’s lay big oval eggs that are similar in shape and colour to an avocado. A stone’s throw away from the Emu enclosure was a couple of Southern Ground Hornbills, that were sociable enough to come to the fence and follow us around their aviary. These Hornbills have very eccentric long eyelashes, bright red exposed skin from the throat to the eyes, and black feathers that cover their entire body.  If you have never seen the Zimbabwean Bird, the “Chapungu”, you get the opportunity to get the full view in person here. They also house the Blue Crane, which is the South African National Bird, as well the Grey Crowned Crane, which is Uganda’s National Bird. Some of the birds, such as the peacocks are free-range therefore, as you are walking around the aviaries, you can spot one or two of them moving about the establishment, quivering their long luscious feathers. 

All avian species are welcome at the sanctuary. The Birds at Thirty team has been undertaking a very successful rehabilitation program, where injured birds either through accidents or animal attacks, can be treated and kept safe from any further harm. Part of their mission as Birds at Thirty is to provide a safe environment where people can come have fun whilst learning about birds. They also promote bird conservation awareness by making sure that every visitor leaves the sanctuary inspired to take a stand against any malpractices towards avian species. Of significance is the need for us as humans to fight for the birds that cannot speak for themselves, mainly by challenging bird trafficking as well as properly regulating habitation programs so that they do not affect the natural flow within the environment. 

We concluded the day by winding down under the shade at the picnic tables, right next to a Kiosk filled with snacks and refreshments. They offer a picnic service and also hire out The Nest at Thirty, which is an exclusive venue, for corporate functions, weddings, and birthday celebrations, located by the waterfowl and Koi pond area.

The Nest at Thirty

Before visiting Birds at Thirty, I thought I knew enough about birds, however, the tour only made me realize how much more there was to learn about nature. Given that there are over 180 species to visit, it is worthwhile going back again to properly grasp every little detail about each bird housed at this bird oasis. I would recommend a day’s visit with family and friends to Birds at Thirty, as the experience is unmatched by any other. 

To make a booking, kindly contact Birds at Thirty at the details provided below: 

FB: @birdsatthirty

IG: @birds_at_thirty

Whatsapp/call : +273 776 828 747

Email: bookings@thirty.co.zw

Images by Birds At Thirty

Originally published in the 119th Ndeipi Magazine

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