When you park your car in the village, you can see the large aviary nets towering above the shops and hear the birds calling and screeching, as they fly around. The small entrance is tucked away off the main road (follow the sign down a short road and turn left) and has signage explaining the prices and warnings before you go in. Visitors are asked to take off any earrings, piercings and jewellery, as some of the birds have a particular likeness for them if they get on your shoulder and start tugging! After you pay the entry fee, you are given a plate with sliced apple and a container of live mealworms - all tasty treats to make you very popular when you get inside. Once you walk in the gate, there is no turning back, as the screech of lorikeets announce your arrival and the fun begins. The following are our family's main highlights - what will be yours?
1/ Feeding the birds is an exciting part of the experience, although it can take awhile for kids (and adults) to get up the courage to hold out the plate and see what happens. Other visitors, who have been there awhile, will show you how its done with birds on their arms, shoulders and even on their heads, as they feed them by hand. Once you feel comfortable doing it, it opens up a whole new world of adventure for kids as they approach different birds and offer them apple or worms, depending on their preference. The finches, budgies and smaller birds have their own food containers behind the rope to eat, so they rarely come over the rope to feed - however the lorikeets and doves will be waiting for you to come closer. Although the birds were hungry on our arrival just after opening time, they soon became tired and shut their eyes for a short period, before they were up and active again. The aviary isn't particularly large, however we spent just over an hour and a half there, taking our time and walking around it several times, meeting new birds to tempt them with our juicy worms - until we ran out of food.
2/ The Co-ordinated Flyovers of the parrots were a surprise and highlight. Something would spook the birds and they would soar over people's heads in unison, twisting and turning as one large flock. Kids would duck as birds took flight and you could feel the breeze of wings flapping past your head, as the birds flew up into the upper reaches of the netting. This was quite startling for some, although most people enjoyed the sight. The birds, mostly different species of parrots, would all fly as one from one end of the aviary to the other, hang upside down on the netting for awhile, and then in a silent agreement they would fly back. They did this several times before they calmed down. In these instances, birds you hadn't seen before came out of hiding and there were even more birds to see and admire.
Flocks of birds fly through the aviary, then hang on the netting...
3/ The variety of birds is simply stunning, with 60 different species of birds to look for with a spectacular range of colours and sizes. Parrots, rainbow lorikeets, cockatiels, finches, doves, budgerigars and unusual birds we had never seen before, walk along the paths, hide in the trees, sleep in their nest boxes, fly overhead and forage in the scrub. There are signs which show the types of species in the aviary, which kids enjoy looking at and ticking off what they have seen. For a current list, see here. The lorikeets in particular are the stars of the show - inquistive, loud, boisterous and funny to watch. For visitors like myself who love photography, it was a dream to be able to capture such colourful and beautiful birds up close - and they seemed happy to pose!
If you are visiting the Canberra Walk In Aviary in Summer, they recommend that you visit early in the day as the birds won't be active as the weather hots up. If the temperature goes over 35 degrees, they will have to close the gates to prevent any further stress on the birds - check their Facebook for updates. For our family, particularly our five year old daughter, the Canberra Walk In Aviary was a treasure trove of discovery. Allow plenty of time to walk around and find wonder in the smallest of finches and beauty, everywhere you look.