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Planckendael hopes for the return of 22 escaped birds

The Inca tern (Larosterna inca). © Derek Ramsey, Wikimedia

Animal park Planckendael outside Mechelen said it hopes for the return of 22 exotic birds that escaped from their aviary during a severe storm in February.

If the birds have to live outside when winter comes, they may not survive, said Marleen Huyghe, curator of birds. “With winter approaching it will be more difficult to survive. Everything will depend on the weather and whether it freezes.”

A total of 45 birds escaped during the storm, but some have already returned. Among those missing is the Inca tern, which Huyghe thinks may not have survived, since the park has stopped receiving news of sightings, despite the bird’s striking appearance.

We are also looking for red ibises, a spectacled ibis and the Mexican black-winged avocet,” she said.

None of the birds is accustomed to the Belgian climate.

Whether they can survive will depend on the weather. If it is a very cold winter, they will not find food. And when it starts to freeze, it becomes very difficult for the birds. That’s how they get exhausted.”

There have been sightings reported over the course of the months since the escape, she said, but reports themselves are not enough.

Catching these birds is not easy. The best way is to try to catch the bird yourself when it is in your garden or at your window. You do this by throwing a towel over the bird and then putting it in a box. Then we can come and get it. We did that with Inca terns who were located at Zaventem airport.”

Another method is to feed the birds always at the same location, and if they make a habit of coming to feed, a net-trap can be placed.

If you think you see an exotic bird, you can report it by e-mail to You can also add a photo.

That way we can see whether it is a bird of ours and whether we can catch it. So far we have received many emails and have been incredibly helped by the people who have notified us,” said Huyghe.

Alan Hope
The Brussels Times

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