American flamingo

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The most brilliantly colored of the six species of flamingos, this familiar bird breeds in various Caribbean islands, the Caribbean coast of South America, the Yucatan Peninsula, and the Galapagos. The American or Caribbean flamingo remains abundant in the wild. In captivity, there are more than 4,000 worldwide, with more than 1,500 in US collections alone. They easily live more than 40 years in zoos. Since the first captive breeding in 1937, they have been hatched in many places. They build their nests from mud, and lay only one egg at a time.

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Wattled jacana

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Jacanas are highly specialized relatives of sandpipers and plovers, found in tropics around the world. In some places they are called lily-trotters because their extremely long toes enable them to walk on lily pads and other floating water plants. There are eight species of which six are confined to the Old World. All have spurs on their wings. This one is found from Panama to Argentina. It is more often kept in zoos in Europe as compared to those in the US.

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Spectacled owl

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Found in forests from southern Mexico to Argentina, this owl was known to the Aztecs for sounding like “tiles clinking together”. Instead of hooting, they primarily produce a rapid knocking or tooting sound. Because of this call they are called “Coffin Makers” in parts of their range. Imported to England more than 150 years ago, it has long been a popular bird in captivity, and has bred in a number of collections, including the DWA. Young birds have a black mask that eventually retracts to the adult’s face pattern.

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Burrowing owl

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Found all the way from the prairies of Southern Canada to Tierra del Fuego at the tip of South America, this is one of the most widespread birds of the New World. Throughout this vast range, it lives in holes in the ground. Though often awake in the daytime, its favorite times to hunt are dusk and dawn. Its prey is mostly insects and rodents. It thrives in captivity, and has bred at the DWA and in other collections. In mythology, owls were messengers of the Mayan Underworld, and companions of the Aztec Death God.

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Barred owl

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Famed as the “Owl with the Southern Accent”, its call (frequently heard around Dallas) has been paraphrased as “Who Cooks for You-all!”. Traditionally a bird of the eastern US, with an isolated population in Southern Mexico, in recent years it has spread to the Pacific Northwest, where it out-competes and hybridizes with the threatened Northern Spotted owl. Barred owls thrive in suburbs, and quickly invade habitats where primary forest has been destroyed. They are more likely than other owls to be seen in the day time. Most of their prey is rodents.

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Eastern screech owl

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Instead of a screech, this bird actually produces a rather gentle-sounding descending trill. Being small, it is prone to being eaten by other owls. On the other hand, they are not much disturbed by human activities, and are common in suburbs. Normally nesting in holes in trees, they readily use man-made sites, including all sorts of abandoned structures. This leads to the frequent discovery of young birds by demolition teams and home-owners that turn them over to rehabilitators, thus making them very common in zoos and nature centers.

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Keel-billed toucan

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Also known as the Rainbow-billed or Sulfur-breasted toucan, it is popular for its resemblance to “Toucan Sam™”, the “Froot Loops®” mascot. The northernmost of the large toucans, it ranges from the Mexican state of San Louis Potosi south to Colombia and Venezuela. Much habitat has been lost to agriculture. Though first hatched in captivity at the Houston Zoo, in 1974, it has not bred consistently in collections. The DWA is involved in a captive breeding consortium for this species involving both private collections and public zoos.

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Quetzals

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The Mayans and Aztecs demanded rare tribute from their subject peoples. The feathers of quetzals were prized more than gold. The five species of quetzals are specialized trogons, found from Mexico south to Bolivia and Brazil. The three species that are part of the collection at the DWA are: Golden-headed quetzal (Pharomachrus auriceps), Crested quetzal (Pharomachrus antisianus) and the Resplendent quetzal (Pharomachrus mocinno). All are green and red, but only the Resplendent quetzal, of Mexico and Central America, bears the prized long plumes.

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Harpy eagle

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A top-of-the-food chain predator, this enormous bird is not abundant anywhere in its vast range from the Mexican States of Veracruz and Oaxaca south to Argentina, Bolivia, and Southern Brazil. A specialist in eating sloths and monkeys, it depends on extensive forest, so is considered Near-Threatened due to habitat loss. Females may exceed 20 pounds in weight. Probably kept by Montezuma, it was displayed in Europe as early as 1778. The first successful captive breeding did not occur until 1981. The female displayed at the DWA hatched at the San Diego Zoo.

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Scarlet macaw

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This marvelous parrot was one of the first New World animals brought alive to Europe, in the 1500s. Long before, it was prized as a pet, and for its feathers, by many Native American cultures. Live birds were traded to Arizona and New Mexico from Mexico for more than 700 years. Known as Mo to the Mayans, it was revered by their Kings, some of who wore rubber rings on their faces in honor of it. Threatened in Mexico and Central America, it remains common in much of South America. First hatched in the US in 1916, it breeds well in captivity.

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