Free Flight

Roseate spoonbill

Roseate spoonbill, Ajaja ajaja

Once nearly extinct in the US, the Roseate spoonbill now flourishes along the Gulf Coast of Texas and Louisiana, and also breeds in Florida. It remains widespread in Central and South America and the Caribbean. Other spoonbills are found in many parts of the Old World, but they are all white. As with flamingos and Scarlet ibises, the brilliant colors are dependent upon what they eat. Young birds have fully feathered heads but become bald after several years.

Scarlet ibis

Scarlet ibis, Eudocimus ruber

For decades this beautiful South American bird has been bred in American zoos and is now established as a self-sustaining population of more than 500. Birds bred in the US have been sent around the world. The brilliant color is dependent upon diet, so zoo birds are provided food rich in carotenoids. It is the national bird of Trinidad.

Curl-crested jay

Curl-crested jay, Cyanocorax cristatellus

Found mostly in Brazil, as well as bordering parts of Bolivia and Paraguay, this uniquely colored jay could be seen in several American zoos in the 1970s, but has not been imported for many years. The DWA’s specimen, received through the cooperation of the Brazilian Government in 2000, is probably the only one outside of South America.

Crested oropendola

Crested oropendola, Psaracolius decumanus

Like the Green oropendola, this species comes from Northeastern South America. Its icy blue eyes contrast with its black feathers. The yellow tail feathers of oropendolas are prized by Native Americans for use in elaborate head dresses. Oropendolas prefer building their nests over water, and several can always be observed over the Orinoco crocodiles. Both Green and Crested oropendolas have bred at the DWA.

Green oropendola

Green oropendola, Psaracolius viridis

These enormous grackle relatives are one of several species that build the hanging nests, looking like hairy bags, which can be seen in various places in the Orinoco rainforest. Males are much larger than females. The aquarium’s specimens are very fond of crickets and other insects and will come down to visitor level when their keeper provides them. They are skillful at picking them up with their beautiful two-colored beaks.