When going bowling at Westbrook Lanes, stopping at the large bird cage at the center’s entrance is as much a part of the visit as getting a pair of bowling shoes, hoping for a strike, or playing pinball.
That changed when the decision was made to close the aviary for good.
Sisters, Daria Giles and Joanne Franco, who now run Westbrook, are daughters of owners, Joe and Doris Cerrone, and they both agreed: “It was time for the birdcage to go.”
Giles said that when her parents took over the center in 1966, the aviary space used to be a waterfall that cascaded into a fishpond.
“My dad loved birds so he took out the fishpond and he built the enclosure for birds that he would decorate real nice for the holidays,” she explained.
Franco added, “At one time, we had as many as 40 birds and there were all kinds, like cockatiels and finches.”
Giles said that over the years, maintaining the birdcage has become a burden, and was quite time consuming because of the thorough and daily cleaning it required.
Another issue was trying to control the population. Not only would the birds mate, but at times, Westbrook found itself as a bird rescue of sorts.
Giles said that there have been times when people would come in to ask if their pet birds could come and live at the center. Some birds were Christmas presents that were no longer wanted while others were just looking to just get rid of their feathered creatures.
Giles always took the birds in, but every so often when it was obvious that there was overcrowding in the enclosure, she would put up a sign offering the birds free to a good home. Her requirement was that the birds needed to be given a home in a suitable cage.
And that is what happened. One final sign was placed on the aviary announcing that the birds were free to good homes and now, they are all gone. The aviary now stands empty and silent.
As for what will take its place, Giles is not sure.
People, especially kids, miss the birds. Giles said: “People still come in all day long and the first thing they ask is: ‘What happened to the birds?’ I have to explain that it was becoming a lot to maintain, but that all of the birds have found good, new homes.”