Harewood House confirms closure date for Bird Garden after 53 years - but penguin pool could remain for longer

Harewood House’s Bird Garden will close this month, it has been confirmed.

The trust which manages the ancestral home of the Earls of Harewood announced last month that the Bird Garden attraction would shut this year as it had become outdated and difficult to maintain.

The final opening day for the aviaries and enclosures will be Sunday February 19, after which work to relocate the birds to other zoological collections will begin.

However, the penguin pool may remain open until the summer.

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Flamingos at The Bird Garden at Harewood HouseFlamingos at The Bird Garden at Harewood House
Flamingos at The Bird Garden at Harewood House

A woodland walk will be created on the site with the aim of encouraging native wildlife.

The Harewood House Trust said in a lengthy statement: “The last few years have been especially difficult, particularly in light of Covid-19, and as we enter 2023 we are all acutely aware of the financial pressures that we face.

“Harewood is not immune to these difficulties and the charity remains reliant on the support of the Lascelles family, its members and visitors, Arts Council England and others in order to offer a great experience whilst balancing conservation needs of the site, with ever greater pressure on our resources.

“As the Trust looks to its long-term future it has to consider what Harewood will look like in five, 10, 25 years’ time from now and beyond, to ensure we stay relevant and able to remain open for everyone to enjoy.

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The penguin pool could remain open for longerThe penguin pool could remain open for longer
The penguin pool could remain open for longer

“Harewood’s Bird Garden is now over 50 years old and, as visitors have pointed out to us consistently over the past few years, the birds’ environment is not on a par with more up-to-date zoos. At Harewood’s last zoo inspection, the team were praised for their excellent care and the health of the birds, but sadly they identified many problems with the site’s physical infrastructure that the charity cannot sustain.

“Over the last six months we have been researching options for the charity going forwards, however, with a need for a £4million investment to just the Bird Garden alone, the Trust has had to make the incredibly difficult decision to close this part of the Harewood experience.

“The Trust simply cannot make the Bird Garden the place that we, and you, all want it to be.

“Over the next few weeks, the birds – many of which are exotic or endangered – will be re-homed in licensed zoos in the UK better equipped long-term to ensure they continue to have comfortable and enriched lives and to ensure their lifelong care. The Bird Garden will close to visitors after Sunday 19 February, with the possible exception of the penguin pool which we hope will remain open until the summer.

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Bird keeper Lisa Bath with a hand reared pair of brown lory birdsBird keeper Lisa Bath with a hand reared pair of brown lory birds
Bird keeper Lisa Bath with a hand reared pair of brown lory birds

“In its place, we will create a new woodland garden, making it an environment where native wildlife can thrive. You will be able to observe woodland and water birds, red kites, otters and more. It also provides us with an opportunity to recreate some historic walks, part of which is expanding the South Park walk that opened in 2021.

“Harewood’s Farm Experience will remain but we will look at the opportunities to improve the area surrounding Harewood’s Courtyard to provide a better visitor experience and open up some incredibly beautiful views of the site.

“We realise that many of Harewood’s visitors love the Bird Garden and have children who love it too. It has been an incredibly difficult conclusion to reach but it is the most responsible and ethical decision to make, to ensure the health and care of these beautiful creatures, but also to ensure Harewood can stand the test of time and be here for as long as it has stood already.”

Trust chair Emily Shard added: “It is with huge sadness that the trustees have reached the conclusion that the Bird Garden must close. Harewood and the Lascelles family have long been committed to the care and conservation of wildlife and nature, but the wellbeing of the birds is paramount. The investment needed to create a modern zoo and maintain this each year is too much for the Trust to afford.

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“We therefore realise that we must make this change and focus on the long-term ambition of this wonderful place, and on the opportunities that Harewood has to support our environment, represent the people and the communities that live in this area today, and to continue to develop Harewood, to serve its best purpose into the future.”