The Lee G. Simmons Aviary at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium is now open to guests after being closed since March 3, 2022, due to concerns regarding the Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) virus. The birds who live at the Lee G. Simmons Wildlife Safari Park have also returned to their outside habitats.
“The Avian Influenza virus has affected birds all over the country, including millions of chickens in Nebraska and Iowa alone. It was incredibly important that Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium make changes to protect our birds from getting infected with Avian influenza,” said Dr. Sarah Woodhouse, Director of Animal Health for Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium. “We are very happy to report that 100 percent of our birds stayed healthy. With the help of Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, we were able to test samples from the wild Canada geese on Zoo grounds, all of which were negative. We feel confident that it is safe to return the birds to their outdoor spaces.”
“We normally start putting birds out in batches of 20 to 30 in late April and finish by about Mother’s Day weekend, which gives the birds cool nights and light guest traffic during week to acclimate,” said Bob Lastovica, Supervisor of Birds for Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium. “This time, we used the flamingo building to hold over 80 birds over three nights, which allowed them to take their time leaving the building.” Lastovica continued, “We moved 215 birds into the Aviary over 4 days, plus cranes, storks and pelicans back to their outside exhibits. They were all very excited to be back out on terra firma.”
“All of the Zoo’s employees had a role in protecting our birds, from the bird keepers themselves to the horticulture, facilities, and Education staff,” concluded Dr. Woodhouse, “I am so grateful to the entire Zoo team for their efforts, and we are all excited to welcome guests back to the Zoo and Wildlife Safari Park to bird watch.”
Aside from the birds returning to the Aviary at the Zoo and Aquarium, including the flamingos, the Dick and Mary Holland Meadowlark Theater has resumed programming, the Budgie Encounter in the Bay Family Children’s Adventure Trails is open, and the peacocks are again wondering Zoo grounds. The American white pelicans in the Pelican Wetlands, the sandhill cranes and trumpeter swans in Crane Meadows and the chickens at the Hands-on Corral have also returned to their outside areas at the Wildlife Safari Park. The Eagle Aviary is open and the whooping cranes are also outside.