Visitors at the Mahendra Chaudhary Zoological Park, commonly known as Chhatbir Zoo, can now enjoy India’s longest walk-in aviary.

Situated about 20 kilometers from Chandigarh, Chhatbir Zoo is a zoological park constructed in the 1970s and is home to a large variety of birds, mammals and reptiles. The newly created “Walk-In Aviary” for indigenous and exotic birds at Chhatbir Zoo promises to be a new attraction. It was thrown open to the  general public on 12 May and is the longest walk-through aviary in the country that is dedicated only to birds. For now, visitors won’t be charged extra for the visit to the aviary and will also be provided with guides.

There are five theme-based exhibits with various landscapes that enhance the beauty of the exhibits. They include terrestrial, rock and duck, woodland, Japanese trail and rainforest exhibit ~ the largest one.

In addition to the landscape, hundreds of selected plants have been planted to provide perches and hiding places for the birds. The inmates of the aviary are a mixture of arboreal, terrestrial and aquatic birds. It is a visitor’s delight to view birds flying free overhead.

The Terrestrial exhibit has predominantly terrestrial birds such as Rose Ringed Parakeet, Alexandrine Parakeet, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Eurasian Spoonbill, Eurasian Collared Dove, White Ibis, White Breasted Water hen, Common Moorhen, Indian Pond Heron and Night Heron. The Rock and Duck section of the Walk-in Aviary has aquatic birds including migratory ducks such as Spot-Billed Duck, Comb Duck, Black Swan and Lesser Whistling Duck.

The Woodland exhibit has a beautiful pair of Sarus Cranes with Jungle Bush Quail, Black Partridge and Common House Sparrows. In addition to that a mini aviary has been created for exotic species like Diamond Dove, Grey Cockatiel, Zebra Finches, Budgerigar and Java Sparrow. The Japanese Trail Exhibit also has a beautiful young pair of Sarus Cranes along with Jungle Bladder, Red Jungle Fowl, Tree Pie, Red Wattled Lawping and Indian Gray Partridge. Largest among the exhibits, the Rainforest section has a huge waterfall with artificial raining system to simulate the environment of a rainforest. It accommodates Painted Stork, Rosy Pelican, Grey Pelican, White Stork, Wooly-Necked Stork and Black necked stork.

“We have tried to create a habitat for birds that is as close as possible to their natural habitats which will help them to exhibit their natural behaviour. In five more years all cages would be similar natural habitats from near natural habitats,” field director  Chhatbir Zoo, M Sudhagar said.He said keeping in mind the health of the birds, the water will be recycled from time to time. “We also have waterfalls and artificial raining systems installed in the exhibits,” Sudhagar said.

“The real test will be when we open the gates to the general public. We will let two groups in at a time accompanied by guides. It is a 15-20 minute walk. After analysing the response from the people we might charge ticket fees and regulate the time spent in the aviary,” he added.Talking about the two years of work put in this project. Sudhagar said, “It would not have been possible without the support of Punjab Forest Department and the Chhatbir Zoo team. It hasn’t been easy. We have tried our best to match international standards.”