Sunday, 2 October 2011

False Imprisonment

Wow, a day out birding and in one day I see American Eagle Owl, Pair of Snowy Owls, a Tawny owl, African Grey Parrots and a Budgie... Ah you see through my thin veil of lies. All of the above were indeed seen, but they were all held in cages at Old McDonalds Farm in Brentwood.

Imprisoned for being too pretty!
(One of the luckier Owls from Paradise Park)

There's something about caged birds that make me really sad. It's great that we're able to see them up close, but you're not really seeing them are you? A bird, to me, loses something of itself in being in captivity. I'm yet to see a wild Tawny, but I know when I do that it will feel incredible, exciting. But in this cage I just stood there, looked at her, she looked back at me, we were both quite unmoved, apart from my sorrow that this beautiful bird wasn't scouring the fields for food, but probably eating dead mice from a bowl like a prisoner (not sure what the prison service feeds inmates, could be mice, I'm just not certain). My point is to truly see a bird you see all of the bird, hear it's call, see the way it behaves and ultimately watch as it flies away when it notices you. These captive birds may as well be stuffed as they just sat there.

A few years ago I visited Paradise Park in Hayle, Cornwall and that seemed somehow different. The birds there were pretty much all born into captivity, but they made special efforts to return birds to their natural environment if possible. They were running a conservation project to return the Chough to Cornwall, and I think they are having some success. The cages were high, wide and deep enough for the birds to stretch their wings and it just seemed a bit more like a hotel than a prison. To the point that the Golden Eagle there took me a couple of minutes to find in it's suite. And rightly so, a beautiful bird like that deserves respect. They had bird shows there allowing some of the birds to fly around, and encouraged natural behaviour, even if it was just a Kookaburra trying to kill a rubber snake.

I suppose captivity can be ok, if it's done right. Paradise Park to my mind has got it right, Old McDonalds Farm is way off the mark. Hainault Forest in Essex has a Little Owl in a cage, why? To me that's like putting a child in a cage in a playground. The child can see the fun all the other children are having, without being able to be involved.

Got that off my chest for now, in other news saw a Buzzard soaring over the fields near the farm, and a Sparrowhawk glided over my garden when I got home. That's how I like to see my birds, soaring and free.

1 comment: