Andrew Downs was considered one of the leading Canadian ornithologists of his time, and his zoological gardens were filled with numerous species of birds. To quote an article published in the journal NATURE, the naturalist Charles Hallock wrote about the zoo’s bird life while recounting one of his visits to the premises:
…tumbler pigeons throw summersets in the air and plump down at our feet; pouters and fantails strut and flutter among the throngs. Chinese and Egyptian geese with huge bulbous bills squeak discordant notes; cranes stalk majestically… There are bantams and game fowls, ducks, geese and pheasants all rare breeds, and for each he has a peculiar call and a handful of seeds or grain, or bread or biscuit, suited to its peculiar taste…
“The First American Zoo” by Charles Hallock, NATURE, January 4th, 1890
In his 1908 account of Andrews Downs’ life’s work, General Campbell Hardy also recalls the bird life at the zoo, and notes the presence of:
- great thick-thighed cochins
- diminutive bantams
- fat glossy ducks of every hue
- hearty swans
- wild turkey
- pigeons who, with plumage as beautiful as the gleaming tints of precious minerals, are favourite touches of natures pencil.
- a variety of wild birds (such as warblers, robins, and woodpeckers)
- migratory birds
- a crane from Mississippi who marches around you apparently earnestly.
- beautiful little ducks from South America
- silver pheasants
According to General Campbell Hardy, past Walton Cottage and the Glass House,
whole groves of young spruces are enclosed and netted over; and against their dark foliage the resplendent plumage of the golden pheasants shines in bright contest as they run to and from the cover and their little house in the corner.
Excerpt take from: Reminiscences of a Nova Scotian Naturalist— Andrew Downs, By Campbell Hardy, Transactions of the Nova Scotia Institute of Science, Halifax, August 1908, Volume 12, Part 1. (p. xvii)
Meanwhile, Birds of prey such as owls, eagles, and hawks, were kept inside the Glass House.