by Haadiyah Sajid
On the sunny afternoon of March 17, we set out for the newly-opened bird aviary in Islamabad, which is Pakistan’s largest bird aviary! We’d been there once before, but this time we were especially excited as our homeschooler friends, Danielle Aunty and her kids Safiyah, Diyana and Shams were coming along, too! Danielle aunty had brought along a big book “Birds of Pakistan” which she used to help us verify which birds were which. Well, there weren’t just birds of Pakistan in the aviary. The feathered fliers released in this huge net were from all over the world, including places like Australia, Brazil and Canada!
We got the bunch of tickets and walked in. It was beautiful, SubhanAllah! Right in front of us was a big pond with lots of ducks swimming inside. Our favorites were the tufted ducks, white ducks with little round tufts on their heads. The fluffy tufts were dyed pink and green, and that made the ducks look rather hilarious. There were ring-necked ducks, brownish birds with dark rings around their necks, as you’d have guessed. And there were mallard ducks, of course. They’re very common, the black, brown, whitish bodied waddlers with shiny green heads – those are the males. The females are a dull brown.
Our guide (from the aviary staff) was an expert, just like Danielle aunty who raises birds on her farm. He even opened the gate of a special enclosure and let us in to see the ducks and some more birds up close! That was a really great part of the trip. Diyana and I tried to get close to a tufted duck (and we did, to some extent), but our target swam away very quickly when he (or she) saw us approaching. That’s the instinct that Allah has created it with!
The Duck Pond
Next, we saw the biggest pigeons in the world. It was rather unbelievable that they were pigeons in the first place, as they were nearly as big as peacocks, without the long tails. One type was bluish, and it had straight hair on its head. A bit like: The other was all black with curly hair growing on its head.
Next, we came past some more pigeons – which had lots of feathers on their feet, which made them look as if they were wearing snowshoes! There was also one pigeon who had puffed up its neck like a balloon. Well, that ‘neck’ isn’t actually called a neck; it’s known as the crop. The bird can fill up its crop with food and fly to its nest and then take the food out from its crop to feed chicks. (I’m avoiding the term throwing up, OK?)
After that, we came across large cages in which parrots were kept. Many parrots were released into the aviary, of course, but the parrots in the cages were either sick, a little injured, or they still didn’t have a companion of the same breed.
The first cage had parakeets, small parrots which have many species. We got to see lots of the species! SubhanAllah, the parakeets come in all colors: blue, red, green, yellow, even pink! Our guide even took out a cover-head pigeon for us to see up close. This pigeon always has its feathers over its face and you couldn’t even see the eyes. In fact, all we could see of its head was the smooth, round white top, which was seen only when we peeked in from above and a tiny bit of its beak. Safiyah did try uncovering its head but unfortunately it only does that when feeding! :D Well, check out these photos.
Next, we advanced up a big bridge, from the top of which we could see nearly the whole aviary! When we’d just started climbing it, we saw some game birds. Traditionally bred for sport, this group of decorative birds includes grouse, pheasants, partridges, and quails. One lady pheasant (that’s a type of pheasant, not a female pheasant) was digging a shallow hole on the ground to lay eggs! Game birds tend to live on the ground, so most are not strong fliers either.
A nesting female game-bird
We kept ascending the bridge and, at one point, we saw a large bowl full of bird feed – and lots of colourful birds! SubhanAllah, they looked so cute squabbling about on little grains of food. :D Most of these birds were of the parrot family. Our guide pointed out some budgerigars (budgarees, for short) that are very sociable. They’re small parrots really. There were also Pakistani green parrots that held larger morsels of fruits in their feet and held it up to their beaks. SubhanAllah, parrots are the only birds which can do so.
Australian parrots feeding freely
Australian parrots enjoying the sun and the food
After the birds flew away from the bowl (well, Shams spooked them!), we kept on going and saw a pond with swans (erm, spelt sawns on the board!), pelicans and ducks. We were going to see those later. After a short while the bridge began sloping downwards. Just as we were about to step off, Diyana turned our attention to a small brown stump on a tree. “What’s wrong with you?” asked Shams – but just then a curios face peeked out of the stump at us. SubhanAllah! The “stump” was a cover-head pigeon! We all had a good laugh and headed towards the tame birds’ enclosure…
In this enclosure there was a colourful wooden structure on which there were 2 cockatoos from Australia, 1 macaw from Brazil and some parakeets, also from Brazil. The cockatoos were huddling together, cawing occasionally but the macaw was hopping around, grabbing bites at times and cawing our heads off. CAW! CAW! CAW! CAW! Our guide put his hands next to his feet and said, “Up!” With another ear-splitting CAW, the ma-CAW hopped nimbly onto his hand. He handed the bird over to Danielle aunty, and then it sat on my shoulder. Even though I was really enjoying it (getting used to the CAWs), I decided I’d like to get him off when he started climbing up my hijab. Later, when the maCAW was on his branch Safiyah put her hand next to his feet and murmured, “Up!”. And hop – Safiyah had gotten him!
Shams was running around as “Alexander the Great” when I asked him if he wanted to hold the macaw. “Hold it?!” he said. “Yeah, you know, like Safiyah’s doing over there,” I replied, pointing. Shams ran over to Safiyah, stared, and began gasping: “Oh my! *gasp!* Safi! He’s digging his claws into your flesh! *gasp! gasp!* Look! Watch out!” Diyana told me that Alexander the Great is afraid. So much for being great!
Our last bit was the swans, pelicans and some ducks. A very interesting thing happened here. The pelican swam around very fast in circles, flapping his wings up and down, making rude splashing noises. Just then the swan came along and did the flapping thing again, but not quite so ‘rudely’ as his wings didn’t touch the water and he held himself high. “This is how you do it!” growled Safiyah, speaking for the swan. “This is going to turn into a drama now that Safi’s spoken,” I thought to myself. And it did.
After the swan’s flapping thingy, the pelican tried it but kept splashing rudely again, but with a tiny little betterment. “See? I can do it!” said Safiyah. “He looks like an airplane!” commented Aymun. “Oh, here’s the swan!” interrupted Safiyah. “He’s like – are you still bein’ an idiot?” “No, I’m doin’ exactly what you told meh to,” said Diyana sweetly, as she was supporting the pelican. Just then the swan flapped gracefully (with Safi’s commentary running along: “THIS IS HOW YOU DO IT!”) And yet again the pelican didn’t get it. “AURGH!!!! You little idiot! You’ll never learn!” said Safiyah in a deep, booming, commanding and bossy-all-at-once voice. Well, he didn’t. The pelican gave up and the swan swam away.
Just then, we realized that we’d better set off for home. We said our salaams and walked back to the entrance. It had been a memorable and feathery trip!