Spike, crowd favourite bird from Butterfly Gardens, has died

Spike, the shoe-poking bird known to visitors from her years at Victoria Butterfly Gardens and the downtown Crystal Gardens, has died.

The Puna Ibis was “quite the character, like no other bird I’ve met before,” said Curtis Herperger, Butterfly Gardens manager, who knew Spike for 14 years. “She had a huge personality.”

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A marble plaque with her picture is being unveiled at 11 a.m. on Saturday at Butterfly Gardens, 1461 Benvenuto Ave. Donations in her memory are being accepted for Wild ARC until the end of the month.

Visitors to the attractions will remember that she often pecked at footwear with her long, delicate beak. “She just really liked shoes,” Herperger said today. “She loved certain people. She didn’t like certain people.”

The shoe attraction was a mystery.

“We never could explain actually what was happening. Because when she really liked it, she would jump up on top of it and sit on the shoe and tuck down like she was just going to hang out there for a while.”

Spike made it clear when she didn’t like a person, sounding similar to a person on a rant. “She had an amazing call when she was scolding someone,” Herperger said.

There was no rhyme or reason to her likes or dislikes, he said.

Staff members remember Spike as playful and energetic. In a good mood, she would run in circles around children, similar to the way a chicken moves, said Herperger, who called her “very cute.”

“She was a favourite of many people in Victoria.”

Spike liked to hang out with the two flamingos, also adopted at Butterfly Gardens after the Provincial Capital Commission’s tropical exhibit in the Crystal Garden closed.

People who knew her are writing on Butterfly Gardens’ Facebook page.

“I'm glad we got to see her in her time. She was one of the highlights of our trip. May her spirit nip upon the golden ambrosia shoelaces of eternity.”

It’s not clear just how old Spike was at the time of her recent death. Her time at the Crystal and then Butterfly Gardens totalled about 24 years. The vet said she died of heart failure in old age, Herperger said.

David Roberts, Butterfly Gardens general manager, called Spike a “show stopper.” She would take flamingo food, hold it in her beak underwater and feed the fish in the attraction’s pond.

Spike had a long life. In the wild in South America, the normal life span is 10 to 12 years, he said.

Butterfly Gardens animals are rescued or donated. About 35 birds are living in the tropical environment, representing about 30 different species. The Gardens avoid pairs because they do not want them to reproduce, he said.

There is one couple, however. There’s a pair of Eclectus parrots who have been paired for two decades. They were originally at the Crystal, then adopted separately, and then reunited at Butterfly Gardens. Newcomers include ring-necked parakeets and a blue conure parrot, Roberts said.

cjwilson@timescolonist.com

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