Des King’s diamond doves, New Zealand k?k?rikis and budgerigars are still missing.

They have been since March, when heavy snowfall covered the aviary in Marlay Park, and some of it collapsed. Around twenty-four exotic birds escaped.

The enclosure was buried under 10 or 15 inches of snow. So it’s little surprise it caved in, says King, who has been aviary watchman there since 2013.

“The snow blew up in drifts onto the roof,” he says.

In the last six months, he has tracked down 10 of the birds and brought them home, with the public’s help. More than half of those that escaped are still on the loose, though.

“I wasn’t quite sure, I’m still not sure, exactly, how many I’m missing,” King says.

Taking Flight

Marlay Park’s aviary was in disrepair when King, a barman at the Blue Haven pub in Knocklyon, spruced it up in his spare time.

Back then, in 2013, “There were briers, bushes and very few birds left,” he says.

He brought his own species of exotic birds down to Rathfarnam’s Marlay Park with the help of park staff.

At the moment, there are budgerigars, canaries, finches, cockatiels, red rumps, North American silver pheasants and pionus parrots among his aviary’s residents. In March, there were nearly 100 birds there.

Blankets of snow brought down a chunk of the aviary about 150 feet long, 14 feet high, and 20 foot wide. “One of the park rangers rang me as soon as he saw it,” says King.

From the gaping hole, “anything that flew of there out was gone”, he says.

The Dublin Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (DSPCA) put out an appeal. The public rallied.

“There was an absolutely huge response from people,” says King. “Birds were recovered as far back as Terenure.”

“Number 28”, a large parrot, was discovered in Blanchardstown. Some residents discovered colourful birds in their garden sheds, says King.

One bird flew into a local house, likely chased by magpies, who are notoriously territorial, says King. Six months later, with about a dozen exotic birds yet to return, King says he’s unsure if he will ever see them again.

“But you’d never know. They’d survive alright,” he says. “But the biggest problem is the magpies and grey crows.”

State of the Art

Marlay Park’s aviary is popular with locals, says Fianna Fáil Councillor Shay Brennan.

Since March, he has pushed for that to be recognised: he would like to see a state-of-the-art aviary built within the park by Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council, which manages it.

“It is an amenity that should definitely be funded. Marlay Park gets a lot of money from concerts,” says Brennan. Some of that should be set aside for a new aviary, he says.

Over the summer, the council ran a consultation on a draft master plan for Marlay Park. That’s set to be finalised by the end of the year, says Brennan.

Keeping an Eye Out

New Zealand k?k?rikis, noted for their green and yellow plumage, have a red head.

Diamond doves are remarkable for orange rings around their eyes. Budgerigars have green and yellow plumage, and black speckles.

If people are feeding Ireland’s native birds, chances are King’s more exotic missing species will try their luck at local bird feeders, too, he says.

If you think you have spotted one of the above mentioned species of exotic birds you can contact Marlay Park on (01) 204 7931.

Cónal Thomas is a city reporter for Dublin Inquirer.

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