Finch Facts

finches on guitar in gallery


Planning your visit

If you're planning to visit on a weekend or holiday, here are some tips in case there's a wait:

  1. Arrive early! The shortest lines are at the start of the day.
  2. Bring a good book or peruse one of ours to help you pass the time.
  3. Follow us on Twitter for updates about average wait times.
  4. Don't wait until the end of the day. In the event of large crowds, the line might have to close at 3:30 to ensure everyone gets in the aviary to see the birds.
  5. Take advantage of the wait and clear your smartphone of old emails, messages and photos.

Commonly Asked Questions

What kind of birds are in the exhibition? Are they endangered?
The birds are zebra finches, native to Australia. They are not an endangered species.

Were they captured in the wild?
No. They were provided to us by professional breeders who raised them in captivity, and tended by animal handlers who supply film and theatrical productions. The birds will be returned to them at the end of the exhibition.

How are the finches cared for?
Twice daily, the birds are fed and the aviary is cleaned. A trined staff member monitors the birds throughout the day. At least once a week, an on-call veterinarian checks in on them to ensure their health.

Do they lay eggs? If so, what do you do with them?
The birds could lay eggs during their natural breeding season. While they are in the installation, they are likely to lay fewer of them. We have been advised by our veterinarian to collect and dispose of the eggs as they appear. As with any birds raised in captivity, the population is controlled by disposing of unwanted eggs.

Where do the birds sleep?
They rest in the hanging "nest condos" provided. Special lights will gradually come up in the morning and fade to darkness at night, which the birds prefer. This creates a healthy circadian (24-hour) rythem more like what they would experience in nature.

What happens if a bird gets sick?
We expect that the birds in the exhibition will be disease-free. But if a bird shows signs of illness, it will be quarantined and cared for by a veterinarian.

Do the birds ever escape?
The aviary offers the birds everything they need to thrive, and has been designed to prevent escape and injury. In the unlikely event that one of the finches were to get out of the aviary space within the gallery, protocols are in place to ensure the bird is safely returned.

May I touch the birds? What if one lands on me?
The birds do not wish to be fed or touched. If you're lucky, one may land on you. Smile and introduce yourself. It will likely rejoin its friends as quickly as it appeared.

Uh, what if a bird poops on me?
Ask the staff member in the aviary for a sanitary wipe. You are also entitled to a coupon for a free hot coffee or tea, 12-ounce soft drink or bottled water from the Atrium Café. A little water and paper towel should take care of things on most washable fabrics.

Have the birds been trained?
No. They are behaving according to their natural tendencies.

What is their natural life span?
5-7 years.

What happens if a bird dies?
The bird will be retrieved by a veterinarian, and then cremated.

What kind of guitars are in the installation?
They are Les Paul Studio Electric Guitars (white) and Thunderbird IV Basses (black), both made by Gibson.

Are the guitars tuned?
They are tuned daily to produce specific notes and chords when the birds interact with them.

Finches and Human Health

I have breathing concerns/lung disease/allergies – is the gallery environment safe for me?
The Salem Public Health Department conducted a walk-through of Barton Gallery and reviewed the exhibition plans in advance of opening. Their monitors will guarantee that best practices for finches and visitors are always in place.

Environmental Health & Engineering, an industrial hygiene company, created an environmental hygiene plan that complies with health regulations and is being implemented by the museum to ensure safety comes first.

The finches inhabit Barton Gallery, a space with a self-contained, independent air exchange HVAC system that vents outside. PEM will carefully monitor the air quality in the aviary. The HVAC filters will be replaced at the close of the exhibition.

The aviary will be kept at 70 degrees Fahrenheit with a humidity level of 50 percent.