The Outdoor Florida Aviary

If you’ve read any of this site you’ll know I have birds. I love birds. I have 10 as of this writing and will probably get more. I find they’re happier in groups. So I decided it was time for an outdoor aviary. Two main reasons- the indoor aviary is just a regular room and they’re destroying things that they originally didn’t touch.

If you’ve read any of this site you’ll know I have birds. I love birds. I have 10 as of this writing and will probably get more. I find they’re happier in groups. So I decided it was time for an outdoor aviary. Two main reasons- the indoor aviary is just a regular room and they’re destroying things that they originally didn’t touch.

A couple of notes before I show you what I’ve done-

Outdoor aviaries can be dangerous for the birds. Why? They are now exposed to bird eating animals and/or animals that want the bird’s food. As such, security should be high on your list. Since I am doing a dirt bottomed aviary (so I can plant plants more naturally), there is the threat of predators digging into the aviary, so the floor must be secured.

Because some birds are always in escape mode, a single door in the aviary can be a great way for escape. Most big aviaries have an intermediate door after the main door to provide a catch zone for any escapees. My intermediate area will be integrated in to my house since space is limited (at some point…).

Ok so here goes- I removed my hot tub from it’s deck and put up 4 4x4x8 posts to start and began excavating the ground to just below the deck supports. After this I laid down 1/2″ welded/galvanized screen on the bottom and secured it all the way around the base. This will prevent the birds from digging out and any predators from digging in.

Next I covered the screen and started on the “walls”. Because certain home improvement stores decided to stop carrying the good 4ft wide screen after I bought the last one I had to adjust the plan so that there were two panels on each side with a door between them and two panels on the end.

All the stages are below. The roof is built up with 2x6s with chip board on top and galvanized metal roof panels on that. Probably overkill, but we get some nasty hurricanes around here!

I added some rather tacky blinds to the outside for the winter. This helped keep the wind down and will help keep the sun from cooking them in the summers.

As always if you have questions please feel free to email me!

UPDATE! 2007-12-17

Rats found a way into the aviary! The house caught fire in April 2007 and I was not there regularly until November. After evacuating the remaining birds, I found holes in the floor (the 1/2″ metal mesh floor). I found and killed the offenders, but have not had time to fully explore the floor to see how they got in.

Cockatiel (Nymphicus hollandicus)

Cockatiels, scientific name Nymphicus hollandicus are a popular home pet.  Here is some information about them:
  • They are the only member of the genus
  • They are the smallest of the Cockatoo family
  • They are natually found in the outback areas of Austrailia
  • Typical life span can be as much as 20 years!
  • Most tiels imitate whistling better than human speech
  • Males are more likely to imitate/whistle/talk than females
  • There is much debate about how to visually sex these birds. The best method is to have them DNA sexed
Normal Grey Tiel Cinnamon Tiel
Lutino Tiel Cinnamon Tiel

There are many variations or mutations of cockatiels. The most common is the  “Normal Grey”, which is most common in the wild.  Some of the variations or color mutations are listed below:
Normal Grey
  • The natural color found in the wild
  • This is the most common tiel you’ll find.
  • Mature males are dark grey with a single white stripe on each wing, yellow face and crest with orange cheeks.


  • Is one of the most common colors apart from normal grey.
  • Coloring is the same as the grey, but is more muted with a brownish tone.


  • Very similar to Cinnamon, but has a more yellowish cast
  • Difficult to tell from a cinnamon unless they’re side by side
  • Generally have deep red eyes instead of black/brown eyes


  • very common coloring
  • Body is mostly yellow and white
  • Can have red eyes

Like most captive birds, seeds alone are not enough. Even though probably 90% of the captive tiels are fed only seeds, they need vitimin suppliments to make up for what seeds don’t supply. A good pelleted food is always best.

Tiels make good pets. They can be social or loaners depending on how they are raised. If you are able to get a hand raised tiel and you continue to handle it, it will make a good pet and allow you to play with it. Many of the tiels are not hand raised and aren’t terribly social.  If you have a social one, you’ll know they love to hang out, eat with you and generally share your time. I’ve personally had several that were hand raised and several that weren’t. They are very different depending on how they are raised, but both still make good pets.

White Bellied Caique (Pionites leucogaster)

White Bellied Caiques are becoming more popular in the USA as their breeding becomes more prolific. While they’re on the more expensive side of the bird spectrum ($750-$1500), they are so far, the best companion bird I’ve had the pleasure of owning. Read on for more info on this great species.
First I want to clear something up. Caique is pronounced KIGH-EEK. I’ve seen and heard some seriously offensive ways of pronouncing this name. I have a KIGH-EEK, not a kike or cake. Nuf said!
juvenile caique
Active Image
Caiques are divided into two species and five subspecies, all are technically “white bellied”.
Pionites melanocephalus and Pionites leucogaster are the species.  The major difference is the color of their heads. The melanocephalus has a black head and the leucogaster is yellow/orange.
The subspecies for these groups are:
  • Pionites melanocephalus melanocephalus= Black-headed caique (common in the pet trade)
  • Pionites melanocephalus pallidus= Pallid caique
  • Pionites leucogaster leucogaster = Green-thighed caique
  • Pionites leucogaster xanthomerius= Yellow-thighed caique (common in the pet trade)
  • Pionites leucogaster xanthurus = Yellow-tailed caique
The White Bellied Caique’s (Pionites leucogasters) are native to South America in Brazil and Ecuador. The most popular breed resides between the Amazon and Madeira River basins (the regualr white bellied). The other two types of white bellies the xanthurus and xanthomeria who are mostly in Brazil and Ecuador.
The black headed caiques are found in Brazil, Venezuela, Roraima, Columbia, Peru and Ecuador.

As a general rule, caiques make great pets, but they are very energetic and need attention! If you can’t provide them with time out of their cages or hands on time, this is not the parrot for you. They are extremely social and always want to be involved with what ever is going on. They can entertain themselves, but that is a minor part of their day.  They need lots of toys in their cage and a constant supply of fresh water. They love to bath in their water bowls.


In the wild you’ll find them feasting on berries, fruits, some seeds and flowers. In captivity they should eat high quality pelleted foods, some seeds and fruits like strawberries, banannas, apples and the like. DO NOT let them eat any fruit seeds!  Also it should be noted that an all seed diet will not provide them the nutrition they need. Seeds should be a suppliment or treat, not a regular diet.
If you MUST know exactly what they eat in the wild, take a look here. It’s really specific!

Inside a small Laser

Lasers seem mysterious to most people and the fact that they even work is even more so. I had the opportunity to dissect a simple crystal driven cavity style laser. My photos and explanation are here for your learning experience. If I’m wrong about anything please let me know!

Let me start by saying that I have no idea what kind of laser this is. I believe this is a YAG laser, but I don’t know the crystal type. I also don’t know what it was used for, but I do know that it follows all the normal rules for a flash bulb pumped YAG rod based laser.

Did I loose you? YAG (Nd:YAG is probably more formal) refers to the crystal type and stands for neodymium-doped yttrium aluminum garnet. This is basically a crystal that the light is “pumped” into. There are other types of YAGs, such as Er:YAG, Yb:YAG, Tm:YAG and on and on (more info here). The crystal types determine the color or wavelength of the beam. The Nd:YAG that I’m referring to produces a wavelength of light at 1064 nanometers and is in the infrared area of the spectrum. What does all that mean? Just that it’s invisible to the naked eye.

Ok, the pumped part. Pumped simply means that light is forced into the crystal. The cavity (see below) is mirrored on all sides except the ends. This causes all the light created by the flash lamp (or diode) to enter the crystal rod at some point. Remember the wavelength part before? The lamp produces full spectrum light, meaning all wavelengths are present, or at least the visible ones. The crystal takes all this and puts out only one wavelength.

Now that the crystal is pumped up (insert dumb joke here), the light exits the crystal at both ends. One end returns the light to the cavity and the other lets it out. What comes out is your laser beam of approximately one wavelength.

Simple? Not done yet. This beam now has to be focused, bent and put where you want it. The unfocused beam is pretty useless. A series of lenses, colluminators, up scopes, down scopes and other optical goodies focus that beam down to a point so it can do something. All that light focused to a small point can do a lot. Most people think the beam can only burn. Not true. The reason for all kinds of lasers is to do different things. Lasers can burn, etch, cut, weld, solder, engrave, anneal and drill. The coolest in my opinion is when a UV (ultraviolet) laser marks on plastic. It doesn’t really cut it, it more sunburns it and literally changes the color of the plastic.

The laser below has all the optics with it but I have no idea what it’s original function was so I don’t know where it is focusing the beam.

This is the laser. It’s very compact.

The most important part here is the cavity where the crystal and flash lamp are. Below is a shot of the cavity open.

The cavity is basically two half cylinder mirrors. The concept here is that the flash bulb flashes at a high rate and almost all of the light is “pumped” into the crystal. The light/photons exit at each end of the crystal and through a series of half silvered mirrors and light bending prisms/optics the light is focused, multiplied and sent out.

The picutres below should allow you to see the path of the beam before it totally exits the unit.

Below are the crystal and flash lamp. The crystal is optically clear end to end and appears frosted on the outside. The lamp is about what you’d expect from a flash lamp.

Other neat laser stuff

High power lasers used in industry are usually water cooled. In the YAG style as described above, water is circulated INSIDE the cavity where the crystal is. The amount of heat generated is HUGE and sadly is one of the inefficient byproducts of lasers.

Lasers are usually between .1% and 30% efficient. That means, for example, that a laser that is 10% efficient takes in say 100 watts of electricity, but only puts out 10 watts at the focused point of the beam. Where does the other 90% of the electricity go? Heat. Not real high on the “Energy Star” approval list… Now realize that all that heat has to be removed from the laser. That takes fans (more power there) or a water chiller if the laser is water cooled (even more power). The heat removal just makes things worse.

Consider a laser that is rated at 400 watts. That normally means that it can output the heat equivalent of 400 watts at the focused point of the beam. To get that at 10% efficiency, you need to provide it with 4,000 watts!! Ouch!

Generally the more efficient lasers are “diode pumped”. This means they aren’t using flash bulbs but something more akin to an LED.

Want more? Visit the Wikipedia article on lasers.