Well, they are sort of in the rainforest. They live in a huge 26,600-square-foot enclosure at the Buffalo Zoo called the M&T Bank Rainforest Falls. I have been in an actual rainforest and birds are not quite this easy to locate since the tree canopy is very high, yet this place is large so it has the feel of being in a rainforest. The back wall of the exhibit is similar to a flat-topped mountain. Lush vegetation and a 25 foot high working waterfall make it a beautiful sight and give the visitor a tropical experience.
This rainforest is in a world of its own, separate from the City and zoo that surrounds it. Rain falls around six times a day, as it does in the wet season in Central and South American countries of the Amazon rainforest ecoregions. Temperature and humidity in the facility remain tropical even on the snowiest night of our Buffalo winters. Today I was at a members only party, and all the birds were entertaining the guests. The birds usually hang out at the top of the canopy, but today, some were down near the people.
A few came right up to me, like the Motmot and the Scarlet Ibis. Many of the birds are very tame around people, yet still have full flight throughout the structure. You might find this odd, but birds in the actual rainforest will come to people also on occasion. Hummingbirds especially even land on people. The parrots will come near people too.
Photographing them is not completely unlike being in nature. They still can be very far from the camera and hidden amongst the dense vegetation. Some shots of the exhibit below give you a sense of the size of the building.
A two-story waterfall is a main attraction, dropping the falls to where dwarf caiman and river turtles live in the water basin below, and a capybara, a large rodent that looks like a giant guinea pig rests on the shore.
Since this post is about the birds, I will show monkeys next. In a real rainforest they are not very shy around people either. They would be annoyed by us and often try to run us out of their terratory.
Something very similar to a real rainforest is how dim it is in the exhibit due to the tree canopy. It makes getting a faster shutter speed a bit more difficult. Some of the photos were taken at 1/20 sec – 1/60 sec, handheld with the ISO at 1600. You can imagine how dark a place this is for taking photographs.
Although most of the birds in the exhibit have free flight, the Toucan is in an exhibit with monkeys, and does not have the entire exhibit to explore. To photograph the birds, I did have to spend time being patient for them to be still.
One thing to note, there are flocks of these birds in the exhibit, not just one or two of each bird. This also reinforces a more natural feel to the exhibit. The netting you see helps keep the birds from the windows. One ibis was killed when the exhibit first opened by flying into the window. The keepers had the windows soaped, but the bird still flew into the window.
I know some of you frown on photography at the zoo since animals are not roaming free in nature. On Garden Walk Garden Talk, I have a hawk and Tundra Swans coming up just in case you thought me going soft and lazy on my nature photography.