For the birds
Catalina Island’s history can be found everywhere: machine guns from World War II in City Park; native artifacts at the Airport in the Sky; historic Catalina tiles on nearly every street corner. One place where nearly 100 years of history can be found is at the remnants of the Bird Park on Avalon Canyon Road.
For nearly 60 years the Avalon Bird Park was one of Catalina Island’s top attractions. Birds from every corner of the globe delighted visitors with their bright colors and fascinating habits. Parrots, pelicans and peacocks vied for attention with cranes, hawks and swans. Hundreds of species were represented in dozens of cages and at the centerpiece of it all was a massive flight cage complete with water features and flight space. The brainchild of Ada Wrigley, in its heyday the Avalon Bird Park was one of the largest collections of birds in the world. Founded in 1929, the aviary attracted guests for decades. In 1966, plagued by decreasing popularity, the park was shuttered and its birds sent to the Los Angeles Zoo.
Most of the Bird Park is gone now, but the entrance pavilion and the flight cage still exist. Nowadays, the cage is the outdoor playground for Avalon’s cooperative pre-school, Preschool Learning for Avalon Youth. It’s not the first time the cage has been reimagined; long before the steel structure became a flight cage, it encompassed the Sugarloaf Casino, a dance pavilion that was the precursor to the Catalina Island Casino.