A report on my trip to ‘Birdworld’ bird and animal park in Holt Pound near Farnham, UK.
- Location: Birdworld in Holt Pound near Farnham, Surrey, UK
- Date: February 2019
- Species Seen: Wonga Pigeon, Socorro Dove, Luzon Bleeding Heart Dove, Pink Pigeon, Nicobar Pigeon, African Rock Dove, Pied Imperial Pigeon
- Additional Info: Birdworld Curator Duncan Bolton is chair of the European Association of Zoos & Aquaria (EAZA) Taxon Advisory Group (TAG) for Pigeons and Doves
I confess, it was not the best time of the year to visit an outdoor animal attraction such as Birdworld. There had been heavy snow the day before and as we arrived, it was clear that the conditions for a visit were less than ideal with much of the car park 5 inches deep in snow, and a sign warning that some of the walk-through aviaries were closed due to icy conditions.
Still, we were there for my birthday and I was determined to see the birds and enjoy whatever could be seen on a cold but blessedly dry and sunny day. I was confident of an enjoyable visit, having seen the park a couple of times before, but it had been a few years since my last visit and my memory of the exhibits was a bit rusty!
Birdworld is home to over 2000 birds and other animals across 3 major zones – the Bird Park, Underwater World Aquarium and Jenny Wren Farm. A good whole day visit is needed to take in all three; so since we only had an afternoon and were there to see the pigeons and doves; we decided to focus on the Bird Park.
Birdworld boasts an impressive array of pigeon and dove species; more than we were able to see on the day due to the walk-through aviary closures and the cold conditions which understandably, resulted in some of the birds hiding away in their warm shelters.
The species on display include some of the rarest pigeon and dove species on the planet, such as the vulnerable Pink Pigeon of Mauritius and the Socorro Dove which is extinct in the wild. It is the efforts of zoos like Birdworld that perform very important ‘ex-situ’ conservation work to help rare birds; coordinating their breeding and conservation efforts through collaboration with other zoos and animal parks via organisations such as EAZA.
We well as the ‘official’ exhibits, the park also attracts many wild birds including 3 of the 5 British pigeon/dove species – the Wood Pigeon, Feral Pigeon and the Collared Dove; all of which we saw or heard on the day. You can even give them a morsel to eat if you choose – pots of mealworms can be purchased for £1 from the gift shop to feed any of the birds in the park.
All of the species we saw on the day had their own unique charm: a hen-pecked Wonga Pigeon husband; a grumpy Socorro Dove; Sleepy Luzon Bleeding Heart and the subtle beauty of the African Rock Doves, as common a sight in parts of Africa as the Feral Rock Pigeon is in British towns and cities.
If you love birds then Birdworld is good value for money and a must-visit, especially if like me, you like pigeons and doves. Next time I’ll be sure to visit in better weather and check out the walk-through aviaries!
Tips for a good visit:
- Check the weather before you visit – warm, dry and sunny conditions are needed to see all the birds at their best
- Allocate a whole day for your visit if you want to take in Jenny Wren Farm and Underwater World
- On arrival, check out the times for the feeding and bird displays, where you can meet the keepers and see the birds in action
- The best lunch is to be found in the Forest Lodge Garden Centre rather than the Birdworld cafe, this can be accessed from the Bird Park.
- Take a good camera with a zoom to get some beautiful pictures!
by Jem, The Crazy Pigeon Lady