NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – It’s hard to imagine a tropical rain forest in Nashville, but that’s exactly what the Aviary is at the Nashville Zoo. It’s a big, heated, glass bubble.

“It is typically about 76 degrees in here at all times,” explained Sean Ployd, Nashville Zoo Avian Keeper. “So, it’s very regulated. And every morning we come through and clean everything, which kind of brings up the humidity [from the water] that you would feel in the rain forest.”

And it’s filled with plenty of tropical species. “So, we have lots of different plants, lots of different birds, lizards and turtles, and sometimes we’ll have a two-toed sloth in here, as well,” Ployd said. “So, a nice little ecosystem.”

“Most of the animals that are in here are neo-tropical birds. Neo-tropical means New World tropics. So, Central and South America are what is most represented here. We do have some African species, some West African species. So, not just the Amazon, Central America, sometimes the Caribbean Islands, and Western Africa.”

So has our winter weather and snow affected keeping the aviary warm and tropical?

“No, it shouldn’t affect us,” Ployd said. It puts a little bit of stress on our HVAC system. Typically, it is able to keep up. But snow is a good insulator. So, the snow will kind of pack on the roof, and that keeps in some of that heat. So, we’re not too worried about that. If anything, it’s always 76 degrees and sunny in the aviary. So, it’s a nice place to be.”

And the Nashville Zoo has always been big on bringing babies into the world, as part of their Species Survival Plan.

“So, we’re hoping to start a breeding program with our black Spotted Barbet,” Ployd explained. “She came to us from San Diego Zoo. And what’s great about our SSP program, which is our Species Survival Plan, is we know exactly who her parents are and who her grandparents are. So, we can trace that and know that she’s not related to our male.”

Unfortunately, due to COVID, the aviary has been closed. but there’s hope for the future.

“Hopefully, things will get better and we can re-open this space,” Ployd said. “Because, it’s a joy to see people come in here and discover birds that they can only imagine, or even beyond imagination.”