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Tracy Aviary flying south with exhibit on Argentina

Swans, cuckoos, flamingos to be ready in 2005

Tracy Aviary, one of only two free-standing aviaries in the United States, will break ground today at 10 a.m. on its first major project in more than 20 years.

A $1 million exhibit called "Destination Argentina!" is scheduled to be completed in the summer of 2005.

Located in the southwest corner of Liberty Park at 589 E. 1300 South, the new exhibit will depict the wetlands, salt lakes and backyard habitats of central Argentina.

When autumn arrives in Utah, hundreds of thousands of shorebirds that rest, nest, breed and feed in Utah are on their way to Argentina, many flying nonstop. The exhibit will show where they go and the company they keep while Utahns are shoveling snow.

Leggy Chilean flamingos, graceful black-necked swans, raucous monk parakeets and comical Guira cuckoos are just a few of the birds that will greet guests when it is open next summer.

"Destination Argentina!" is made possible by the voters of Salt Lake City, who overwhelmingly approved a bond measure for the aviary in the fall of 2003.

According to aviary spokeswoman Marjie Noble, all of the money for the project comes from the bond and will be used very efficiently in what is hoped to be the first part of a 20-year renovation by the aviary.

"This is the beginning of a new life for the aviary," she said.

"Destination Argentina!" will be located at the south side of the aviary, where the old turkey yard used to be. That section is currently not being used.

Noble said the project will not interfere with the aviary's schedule or its visitors. About all visitors will notice is a construction trailer by the south fence.

Up to a dozen other new exhibits are being planned for the next two decades. Additional bonding proposals, as well as private and public donations, will be used to fund those projects. The swamps of Mexico and the Costa Rican rain forest are other possible exhibits.

The goal of the aviary is to highlight the Utah connection to birds. She said aviaries that use bird migration exhibits are very rare.

"Everyone has a bird story," Noble said. "Birds have a universal appeal."

The aviary is also embarking next week on a special fund-raiser. Through the aviary's Web site, two special plastic flocks of pink flamingos will be available to be placed in yards by those who make a donation. The aviary wants to keep these flamingos "migrating" throughout the valley.

Flamingo "insurance" can also be purchased to make sure the birds don't end up on your property.

Money raised will supplement the aviary's regular operating budget.

Noble said the nation's only other aviary that isn't connected to a zoo is the National Aviary in Pittsburgh.

Tracy Aviary is open every day of the year except Christmas Day. Hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. all next week. However, starting Halloween, Oct. 31, winter hours will be 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for children 4-12 and $4 for seniors and students. Family memberships are also available.

For more information, call 596-8500 or go online to www.tracyaviary.org.


E-mail: lynn@desnews.com