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Geoffrey McAllister, Deseret News
Seven-year-old Eva Bromley of Lehi feeds a pair of sun conures on Wednesday at Tracy Aviary.

Next summer, visitors to the Tracy Aviary in Liberty Park will experience Utah birds face-to-beak in a refurbished wetlands exhibit.

The bird sanctuary plans to spend $450,000 over the winter to replace netting and make structural improvements on its 3,600-square-foot flight cage, built in 1952. The first $100,000 will be donated by Kennecott companies, with the rest coming from private donors and city and county governments.

The exhibit will feature up to 30 birds, including white ibis and two species of blackbirds. Other birds will be rotated into the exhibit for purposes such as rehabilitation, curators said Wednesday.

The flight cage will be renamed the Kennecott Wetland Immersion Experience and will feature a boardwalk over shallow water alongside cattails, reeds and bulrush. Visitors will pick up laminated cards identifying the birds on the way into the domed cage and drop off the cards on the way out.

"It's very exciting, fun for kids," said executive director Tim Brown, who compared the experience to birding in the wild. "How many kids get the experience of walking into a wetland?"

The exhibit is part of the aviary's larger goal of introducing Utahns to the wildlife in their backyards, said spokeswoman Maddy Shear. There are at least 150 species of birds in the valley, and millions of creatures stop by the Great Salt Lake annually on migratory flights from Canada to South America.

"Immersion experiences are the best way to connect kids with nature," Brown said.

Renewal of the flight cage is part of the aviary's path toward accreditation by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. The aviary was denied the prestigious recognition in 2006 because of crumbling buildings and lack of current and future funding. It hopes to reapply in March 2009.

Bird haven wants bond

Tracy Aviary is hoping to get a $19.5 million bond on the 2008 ballot for the second phase of its four-part master plan, said executive director Tim Brown. Additional walk-through exhibits, an entryway plaza and indoor space would be built in the core of the park if the funding is approved.

We want a dramatic impact over a short period, he said.

The bond would add about $2.50 to the annual property tax bill on a $235,000 home in Salt Lake County. If approved, renovations are expected to spur increased aviary attendance and philanthropic support, which would make the aviary more self-sustaining, Brown said.

The increased funds could also help the aviary meet accreditation standards, Brown said. For more information, visit tracyaviary.org.

E-mail: [email protected]