The new Aviary at the Philadelphia Zoo opened in May 2009, but I haven't had time to get to the zoo until now (and July is a hot crowded time to visit any zoo). The Philadelphia Zoo is America's oldest zoological park and I have been privileged to visit dozens of times as a child and adult. But I haven't been back to the zoo since I began birding four years ago, so I was excited to have an opportunity to see birds of other continents that I may never have the chance to see again. After all, I am no Phoebe Snetsinger and international travel is expensive!!
The Philadelphia Zoo’s new $17.5 million McNeil Avian Center has walk-through habitats with over 100 birds from around the world, many of them rare and endangered. The birds include huge Rhinoceros Hornbills, striking Victoria Crowned Pigeons and gorgeous Fairy Bluebirds and Bali Mynahs. Aimed at children, the 4-D Migration Theater has a animated movie following Otis the Oriole on his first migration to Mexico from where he hatched in Fairmount Park. In this movie, Cape May, New Jersey is prominently featured as a migration stopover for hundred of thousands of birds. Those of us who also migrate to Cape May for the bi-annual migration festivals are well aware of the special nature of Cape May.
At the McNeil Avian Center I got some great pictures with my little point-and-shoot digital. In parts of the exhibit, the birds are behind mesh cages and in parts you can walk right up to the birds (and they can poo right on you!).
Future blog posts will highlight the birds of the McNeil Aviary, but here is a video of the SubSaharan Africa section of the exhibit. You can hear the shrill singing of the Magpie Shrikes. The video pans over to a Hammerkop and an Egyptian Plover.