The aviary was built in the summer of 1994 and can house four different species. Currently we house pheasant, turkey, peafowl, and a turkey vulture.
Zeke, the turkey vulture, is our most charismatic bird. Turkey Vultures are native to Wisconsin and Zeke was given to the zoo because he was unreleasable. You may notice that one of his wings droops at a funny angle. Although Zeke can’t fly long distances, or soar, he can easily hop from the floor to his perch and warming box. He vomits when he gets excited.
Turkey Vulture are migratory and only spend their summers soaring in Wisconsin skies. They winter in the southern US and into South America. They find food with their keen sense of smell, and are regularly seen dining on road kill or at landfills or trash heaps. Their featherless, bald heads are an adaptation to keep their heads clean despite their eating habits.
To learn more about Turkey Vulture visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
At the zoo we have 2 Rio Grande Wild Turkeys. Wild Turkeys range across the United States, but there are different subspecies, the Eastern Wild Turkey is native to Wisconsin while the Rio Grande subspecies live in western Texas. Rio Grande Wild Turkeys have longer legs and a lighter color than the turkey we see in Wisconsin.
Wild Turkey across the country have a similar history. In Wisconsin, the species was extinct in the state by 1881 because of over-hunting and land use changes. They were reintroduced in 1976 and their populations have been recovering ever since. Their preferred habitat is mature forest that is interspersed with fields.
Learn more about Rio Grande Wild Turkey
Learn about the Wisconsin Wild Turkey Management Plan
Ring-necked Pheasant are a popular game bird in the state but are not native to Wisconsin. You may see them wandering on our roadsides or near agricultural fields. The birds are an introduced species that was brought to the US from Asia in the 1880s. Pheasant populations were self-sustaining in Wisconsin into the 1940s. Populations declined when habitat availability decreased because of changing agricultural practices, and urbanization. In order to meet hunting demands, state game farms produce chicks that are released on state lands and harvested during the fall hunting season.
Learn more about Ring-necked Pheasant
Indian Peafowl are in the pheasant family of birds. Males are called peacocks and females are peahens. This species comes from South Asia and are still common wild birds in India and Sri Lanka. Indian peafowl are common in zoos and botanical gardens around the world because the males have such beautiful plumage and they readily display their outrageous tail feathers during the breeding season.
Learn more about India Blue Peafowl
Did You Know?
Like all other vultures, the turkey vulture has a bald head. This is so that bits of carrion (dead meat) do not adhere to the skin as they would to feathers.