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Paradise In The Backyard

Paradise found in this great backyard

By Dick Schroeder

Huge scrub oaks trees mingle with palms and eucalyptus in most yards. It’s in this neighborhood that we find the lovely, traditional home of Robert and Brenda Young.

The driveway is secured by a black wrought-iron gate, which opens into a wide parking area with garage access. At the southern edge of the parking area looms what most visitors would assume is a tall greenhouse. And a greenhouse it is: papayas and figs grow on the tall trees, coffee trees and sinewy vines abound. Various palms and bromeliads add to the lush landscape. The ground is covered in the same bark that orchids are planted in. With the temperature in the mid-80s and high humidity, I felt as if I was in a genuine rain forest.

One day a week it does become a rain forest; Robert turns on the rain system, and leaves are washed and plants nourished. The temperature is controlled by both heating and cooling systems that cool in summer and heat in winter to keep not only the foliage happy, but also the avian inhabitants.

Birds, Birds Everywhere
Everywhere I look there are birds. Several Euphonias perch at the top of a fig tree. Tanagers of every description abound, including a pair of the most beautiful paradise tanagers. There are reedlings, high up in the canopy with their offspring, white-cheeked bulbuls flitting among the leaves, and the well-camouflaged lesser-green broadbill sits quietly on a branch.

On one of the lower food stations, a lovely rosy Burke’s parakeet makes a nice contrast to the red of the orchid bark. Crickets and waxworms scurry for cover as hungry beaks seek them out. Several food stations hold fruit and nectar bowls. Others offer insects or eggfood. A few have seeds.

Near most feed stations there are two chairs. Robert and Brenda use this as an extension of their house, a quiet place to drink the morning coffee or sip an afternoon wine. It’s a place where you could sit for an hour and still not see all the inhabitants. Due to the perfect climate, there are pairs nesting nearly all year long.

The aviary truly is a family affair. Brenda’s daughter, Sam, prepares the food each day and enjoys the birds as well. She is always seeking new birds to pair with existing singles or a new species to add another splash of color. The large property includes many rare and wonderful trees and shrubs, and Robert enjoys his plants as much as the birds do. One palm is so rare that there are very few in the United States outside of Hawaii and certainly none on the mainland are planted outside of a greenhouse. I suspect the Youngs spend as much time in the aviary as they do at their beautiful pool.

Looking to someday retire from his endodontics practice, Robert has perhaps discovered a second vocation — he is raising waxworms by the thousands, no, tens of thousands. Where some of the neighbors might have a wine cellar, the Youngs have a worm cellar. A temperature-controlled environment where fat little grubs grow into bird food and fishing bait.

How did this passion for birds emerge? It all started with a one conure, a gift to Sam from Robert. Now they have moved quickly into some of the more difficult species to keep, let alone breed. Brenda is already eyeing other parts of the property for a new aviary, one for a mixture of larger softbills this time. She prefers the birds in a mixed environment rather than a single pair to a flight. That is my favorite way to enjoy them as well, interacting with each other.

I’m looking forward to a return visit, perhaps to see the new aviaries or maybe to share a glass of wine with the Youngs in the existing tropical rain forest.

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Paradise In The Backyard

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Reader Comments
It sounds great.
Dee, Sandy Valley, NV
Posted: 9/25/2010 6:15:02 PM
Sounds so beautiful and relaxing. My fids would be so jealous...
Leslie, Columbus, OH
Posted: 11/20/2009 9:58:28 AM
I believe this is a well written article. And it does sound like a little paradise as well. However, I worry about the fact that these birds are breeding. There are already so many unwanted birds in Avian shelters. I just don't see how they can justify letting their birds breed, no matter how lovely it sounds. I have, among many species of birds, 14 lovely parakeets, most were given to me, as they had become unwanted. They live in an outdoor aviary, it's a very nice aviary, although it doesn't compare to the aviary in this article. My parakeets would love to raise babies; but I don't allow them to. I have no nesting boxes in the aviary and when the occasional egg is laid, I dispose of it. If the birds in the article are an endangered species, I can see the justification in allowing them to breed. If they are not, then I don't believe they should be allowed to breed. What will become of the excess birds whenthe aviary is filled to capacity?
Earla, Pasadena, TX
Posted: 5/14/2008 11:44:56 AM
Great, wonderful area you should be very proud of your accomplishments. I've been to one aviary when I was 13. It was my birthday gift to choose a parakeet. The owner showed me the mom and the dad and explained to me what colors the babies would be. After the eggs were hatched I went back and picked my very own egg. I got to go through the whole process from egg to hatching and watching my baby grow. Their aviary began on covered back porch from there out to a totally enclosed back yard from the ground and grass all the way over tops of existing trees with double layer of wire, situated tarps, lean-tos, water and food areas. I'm 63 now and feel so lucky to have experienced that event. My parakeet lived 13 wonderful years. Keep up good work.
pj, fayetteville, WV
Posted: 3/14/2008 6:43:18 AM
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