Hike the trails of the Bailey Arboretum in Lattingtown and you might see a red-tailed hawk, an owl, an opossum or a crow -- but probably never all at the same time. Until now. A new permanent exhibit has brought all of these creatures into several large outdoor aviaries that invite patrons to get up close.
But this isn't a zoo. Each of the 30 or so feathered or four-legged animals is a rescue, receiving care from the Volunteers for Wildlife Hospital and Rehabilitation Center.
"The animals in the aviaries can't be returned to the wild because of their injuries or because they've lost their fear of humans," says education coordinator Lauren Schulz.
WHAT YOU'LL SEE
Each enclosure is home to an individual species: red-tailed hawks, owls (barred, great horned and Eastern screech), doves, opossums and crows. All are native to Long Island. The circular wood-and-wire aviaries are like gazebos, of sorts.
"This is really beautiful. You can get so close to them," marvels Theresa Henriksen, of Albertson, who was visiting on a recent Sunday afternoon.
The circular aviaries range from 10 feet to 20 feet in diameter. Some of the structures have limbs and rafters for birds to perch on and other trimmings that are common to the inhabitant's natural environment. Visitors are welcome to take a peek. "If you're quiet, you can observe them eating, sunning themselves, playing with each other," says Jess Drew of Port Washington, who works as the clinic's supervisor. Human voices, she explains, can be stressful for wild animals, particularly those that are rehabbing from injury.
Each aviary has areas for the animals to retreat if they're feeling stressed or in need of privacy.
WAITING AND WATCHING
Gina Galante of Glen Cove was among the visitors who paused to take a look, observing a 22-year-old red-tailed hawk that worked intently at hopping higher up on a branch, reducing its exposure.
"It is amazing to me that the bird is telling us he needs down time," says Galante, 51.
Meanwhile, a large barred owl turned to face those who stopped. Three tiny Eastern screech owls (they only measure 7 to 9 inches tall) chose to stay warm, dry and hidden in their small individual enclosures in their own aviary.
Schulz says the volunteer group hopes that by seeing these animals up close, the public will appreciate the nature outside their doors.
"Everyone knows what a tiger looks like, even though they'll never see one in the wild," Schulz says. "But, few know the native species on Long Island."
Samantha Seery, 8, of Glen Cove, and her mom, Maria Venuto, were visiting the aviaries for the first time.
Says Seery: "If they can't return to the wild, I'm glad they have a place like this to live."
Rescued animals at the Bailey Arboretum
INFO 516-674-0982, volunteersforwildlife.org