Bird Park, Santa Catalina Island

From Islapedia
Santa Catalina Island Bird Park, 2013
Cassowary, 1931
Santa Catalina Island Bird Park
[original in SCIF archives]
n.d. [1928-1966]
[Santa Catalina Island Co.]
Stapled wraps. 38 numbered pages
[original in SCIF archives]

Bird Park, Santa Catalina Island (1928-1966) was built by William Wrigley, Jr. in the late 1920s, and it covered about eight acres in Avalon Canyon. The large aviary iron superstructure once had been a dance pavilion at Casino Point. It was moved in about 1927 to make way for the construction of the new Casino, and readapted as an aviary for the Bird Park. Eventually, more than 500 cages housed up to 8000 birds, many of them rare and exotic species. Admission was free to what was thought to be the world’s largest bird park at the time. The Bird Park was scaled back during World War II when visitation to the island was limited. In 1966 the park closed, and its remaining birds were purchased by the Los Angeles Zoo Association and transferred to the newly created Los Angeles Zoo. Today the Bird Park site is home to an Avalon preschool. Los Angeles Zoo records show 578 birds having been received. Zoo journal entries for the incoming birds are dated February 18, 1966. Santa Catalina Island Company board minutes of May 25, 1966 ratified the sale of the remaining birds.

Home Movie of the Santa Catalina Island Bird Park in 1941

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In the News~

April 1, 1928 [LAT]: “Classified. Rare birds. Ringneck pheasant for stocking; eggs and chicks of rare game and pheasant, quails, peafowl, grouse and waterfowl. Aviary and song birds. Visit the Magic Isle and see out exhibit. Catalina Aviaries, Avalon, Cal.”

November 19, 1928 [LAT]: “Avalon. Blue parrots, pigeons the size of young turkeys, a bird that runs like a man with a body of an ostrich and wings that forgot to sprout, whistling tree ducks and green feathered trumpeters. No this is not a Catalina fish story, but a bird story. And absolutely authentic. These are the new inmates of the Catalina bird farm. H. E. Lewis, superintendent of the island aviaries, has returned from a two months tour of practically all the zoos, private and scientific bird collections and importers’ bird marts in the country seeking the rarest feathered creatures to be found…”

March 3, 1929 [LAT]: “Since William Wrigley, Jr., turned his Catalina Island dance casino into a bird cage and set aside a ten-acre tract as a bird sanctuary, it is the feathered family that is holding the island spotlight. The big flight cage with its circular pond for water fowl, tropical trees, plants and shrubs that afford nesting and picturesque rustic bridges under which float majestic white and black swans, is the bird paradise that has been created, in what was less than a year ago a cactus-grown canyon… The Catalina Aviaries are a unique gift to the public by William Wrigley, Jr. No admission is charged. The project is designed to serve a two-fold purpose — that of a Catalina attraction to give visitors the opportunity of seeing practically lovely feathered creature in the world as though at full liberty in a sunny spacious park; and too, through propagation of many species of rare birds that are rapidly becoming extinct in their native habitats, to preserve them for posterity. The Catalina Aviaries, in the short time since their establishment, represent already the largest private collection in America. It is Mr. Wrigley’s intention to make it the outstanding bird sanctuary of the world, and also a scientific ornithological research station.”

June 26, 1929 [LAT]: “Among the interesting attractions at Catalina this year are the Catalina Aviaries. Only in the pages of Alice in Wonderland would one expect to find the many strange and beautiful birds that may be seen almost as if at full liberty in the new bird park. Comprising seven and one-half acres, surrounded by a low-rambling red-tile-roofed wall suggestive of the Moorish influence of architecture, the Catalina Aviaries are in a beautiful park in a picturesque canyon back of the city of Avalon. Here, hundreds of varieties of birds gathered from all parts of the world live in an environment similar to their native habitat. What has become known as the ‘World’s largest bird cage’ is a huge octagonal aviary in which flight and water fowl live as one happy family. It is Mr. Wrigley’s plan to create one of the outstanding bird show-places in the world on Catalina Island, not only for exhibition purposes free to the public, but also for the propagation of game and rare species of birds in danger of becoming extinct and as a station for research for students of ornithology.”

July 14, 1929 [LAT]: “During the month of June, 20,000 more persons visited Catalina Island than during the same month last year, company officials state, while an experimental check of persons visiting the Catalina Aviaries totaled 2100 for one day.”

July 21, 1929 [LAT]: “Another evidence of the growing importance of Southern California as a bird farming center is the reported success, as a purely commercial venture, of the Catalina Island Bird Farm, started a year ago by William Wrigley, Jr., resort owner… As for the demand for surplus stock, E. H. Lewis, superintendent of Mr. Wrigley’s bird farm and before that for many years connected with the propagating activities of the California State Fish and Game Commission, declares that he took orders for delivery of young birds before the first post hole had been dug at the island site of the aviary, and six months later delivered, in fulfillment of the order, 1473 game birds, including a dozen white pea fowl and 700 young pheasants and quail, to customers on the Atlantic coast… The aviary, with the capital of Mr. Wrigley behind it, is promptly notified by various bird importers of importations and pending importations, and consignments have been delivered at the island from as far away as Java and New Guinea…”

April 2, 1930 [TI/Avalon]: “Catalina Bird Park to be much enlarged. Work is under way to clear several hillsides and canyons adjoining the Catalina Aviaries to increase the famed island bird park to double its present area of 7-½ acres. One hill is to be given over to ostriches, crane and other fish-eating birds. Another hill will become the habitat of game birds, while a canyon will be the home of water fowl. According to the statement of William Wrigley, Jr., owner of Catalina Island, the Catalina Aviaries when completed will be enlarged until they comprise some twenty acres and harbor a pair of every specie of bird possible to secure from every corner of the earth. The equable climate of Catalina Island, which during the past two years since the aviaries were established, is attributed for the success of the propagation of rare specie of birds never before reared in captivity, is said by ornithologists to be ideal for a bird sanctuary and scientific experimental station...”

July 18, 1935 [TI/Avalon]: “Points of Interest—Bird Park—The Catalina Aviary at Avalon is most interesting. A 7-1/2 acre bird park, with many wonderful varieties. Here African crowned cranes, flamingos, Impetyan, silver and gold pheasants are seen in natural flight in the world’s largest birdcage. White peacocks, Abyssinian pea-fowl, Australian swans, Mandarin ducks, quail, grouse, lovebirds, cockatoos and parrots, hundreds of rare species collected from all parts of the world are on exhibition. Free to the public. Reached by a short bus ride, on frequent schedule.”

January 14, 1966 [LAT]: “Avalon. Catalina begins vast face-lifting. The biggest face-lifting project in 40 years us under way on Santa Catalina, one of the nation’s best-known island resorts… Catalina Bird Park, featuring one of the largest private bird collections in existence, is to be dismantled—the nearly 1000 exotic birds are up for sale… As for the 40-year-old Bird Park the company says it has lost $197,000 on it during the past few years. ‘We tried to interest others in operating the attraction rent free,’ [Malcolm] Renton said, ‘but no one is interested. It simply has been a losing proposition.’…”

February 17, 1966 [Catalina Islander]: “Doors closed at Bird Park. On Thursday, February 10, students of the Avalon schools took a last look at Catalina Island's Bird Park. Students, accompanied by faculty, went through the park in groups of 50 to 75. The Bird Park officially closed operations on Monday, February 7. The birds will soon be transported to their new home at Los Angeles Zoo.”

February 18, 1966 [LAT]: “The transfer of 650 rare and exotic creatures from the Catalina Bird Park to the new Los Angeles Zoo was completed Thursday. Some of the birds were flown in crates in nine flights in two light planes. The larger birds were transported from Avalon to Wilmington by a barge. One of the largest private collections in existence, the birds were purchased from the Santa Catalina Island Company by the greater Los Angeles Zoo Association for $14,000. Rarely seen pigeons, doves, parakeets, macaws, cockatoos, toucans, finches, hawks and falcons from throughout the world were flown from Catalina to Lockheed Air Terminal by pilots Charles Lyon and Jim Katzenberger… The bird lift brought down the curtain on Catalina Bird Park, one of the most popular attractions of its kind in the country, established by William Wrigley, Jr. in 1926. It was closed, the island company reported, because it operated at nearly a $200,000 loss the last few years. For Ray Estes, manager of the bird park since 1936, Thursday was a sad day. The 60-year-old bird keeper crated the last of his feathered friends…”