Little bodies of color flit and flash from branch to branch, chirping and preening, showing off for Hillsboro’s Salem Home residents, staff, and visitors.
“They are curious little things,” Heather Crocker, aviary caretaker and Salem Home employee said on Friday. “The residents enjoy watching them, especially when we put in the bird bath. Now that’s entertaining.”
The 5-by-3 foot glass paneled aviary in the resident activity room is home to several varieties of birds, including zebra finches, silverbills, a canary, diamond doves, gouldian finches, and a tri-colored nun. Just last weekend, a pair of zebra finches hatched out newborn chicks, much to the delight of resident Betty Bernhardt.
“Coo, coo. Where are those little red-billed babies?” Bernhardt asked. “Pretty bird, pretty bird, where are your babies, Angie?”
Bernhardt said she enjoyed talking to the birds every day. She even named several of them, including Angie, a zebra finch, and Mark and Cassie, a pair of diamond doves.
“Sing to me, Canary. Sing to me,” Bernhardt said, as a mostly yellow bird perched nearby and chirped a little song.
Crocker said the resident home owns the aviary, but Living Design, Inc., a South Dakota business, provides the birds. They provide similar services to several area nursing homes.
“They come quarterly to check on things, change the bedding, and provide a whole new array of birds,” Crocker said. “They leave us extra nesting material and bedding to put in as needed, plus the food that we feed them.”
Crocker, who raises Zebra Finches at her own home, said it was not surprising to have new hatchlings.
“The zebras are really easy to raise,” she said. “The doves are easy too. The doves lay a lot of eggs; we almost always have eggs in here. The other varieties, though, they are harder. Sometimes it is hard to even tell if you have a matched set, male and female.”
At a time of year and a time in life when color is not common, the bright and energetic birds in the Salem Home aviary provide residents like Bernhardt with a splash of happiness.
“I just like to come here and talk to them,” Bernhardt said. “Pretty bird, pretty bird, sing to me, Canary. Get some grass to build your nest, Mark. Did Cassie lay some eggs? Where are those red-billed babies? Oh, there they are — so sweet.”