After 10,000 exotic birds were killed by the Lilac Fire, family hopes to rebuild aviary

BONSALL, Calif. (KGTV) – A family-run aviary, filled with 10,000 exotic birds, burned to the ground last Thursday in the Lilac Fire.

The owners’ daughter, Jenni Southwell, said it was one of the largest commercial finch breeding companies in the country.

Her family emigrated from Taiwan in the early 1980’s and founded the business in the quiet hills of Bonsall.

It started off small but soon became a large operation. 

The family raised zebra finches, society finches and lady gouldians as well as other exotic birds like cockatiels and parakeets. They sold them wholesale to pet stores.

The birds were housed in hundreds of small cages inside several aviaries.

A few may have escaped, but Southwell imagines nearly all of them died. Her brother, who was working there when the fire broke out, did not have time to open all the cages.

“I haven’t been able to sleep all week. Was this really real? Did this really happen?” she said.

Her parents were both in Taiwan when the fire broke out. Her mother, who is now in remission, had been receiving treatment for cancer.

“The only request my mom had was to get rid of all the remnants of the bird cages,” said Southwell of the melted metal that still poked out from the ashes.

The family is seeking donations to help rebuild the bird farm. You can find a link to their GoFundMe here

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