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Miamiís Parrot Jungle and Gardens

For a bird-lover like me, thereís no such thing as a bad time to take a trip to Parrot Jungle. Iíve visited many times, and no two visits are ever the same. We head south on I-95 toward Miami to see some beautiful birds and, arriving from the north, we simply take I-95 to I-395 where we head east toward Miami Beach. I-395 becomes the McCarthy Causeway, also marked as US 41 East. Signs clearly direct us to Parrot Jungle Trail which is just a slight right off I-395.

Upon entering the park, dead ahead is the circular area for smoking and resting. To the right is the baby nursery where baby birds are hand fed by the Parrot Jungle staff. Near the nursery there are stroller rentals, wheel chairs, phones, first aid, and other services available. Throughout the park are beautifully landscaped plants, some of which are quite rare. Parrot Jungle is truly beautiful, both park-like and jungle-like.

The next stop is my favorite and I will end up returning there before my visit is over. The Posing Area offers a collection of tame birds of all types, including some endangered species, which are ready and willing to get on your shoulder or arm and pose for photos. They also love being scratched on their heads and petted. There is always a staff member at the ready to supervise and prevent anyone from abusing these friendly birds. Each bird has a covered stand where it can sit and rest and eat or drink until another person wants to play. These birds are changed out regularly; the same birds are not there everyday or they would become tired and irritated. Great care is given to the birds of Parrot Jungle; no bird is stressed or over-worked. Each is well loved and great attention is paid to their needs and their health.

Everywhere between exhibits there are bird displays with birds of various types available for viewing in their aviaries. They can be seen playing, eating, and just being birds. Each bird aviary is labeled with the name of the birds. Some of the birds will come to the side of the aviary to see me; others shy away or ignore me completely. All of them are fun to see. When I first bought my baby Sun Conure I had no clue as to what she would look like as an adult. I learned at Parrot Jungle. Every time I visit, I take away some additional useful knowledge about birds, whether pet birds or wild birds.

Next stop is the Manu Encounter. This free-flying aviary experience is modeled after the clay cliffs in Manu, Peru, where macaws and other parrots gather to eat the nutritious clay. Apparently, some trace mineral is available in this cliff and flocks appear regularly to have some clay. The free-flying aviary allows the birds to free-fly around the area, but they always return. I learned how this is accomplished; each bird that is free-flying has a bonded mate who is not allowed to fly at the same time, so they return to their mate after their flight.

The Parrot Bowl has scheduled parrot shows where you can see humorous tricks performed by quite a few different types of parrots. I always end up laughing until I cry at some of the parrot antics performed. Roller skating, basketball, coin tricks and more are seen during these shows.

Next stop is the Rare Plant Nursery, the greenhouse where rare plants are grown. A walk-through visit is permitted. Next we move on to the Everglades Habitat where native flora and fauna of the Everglades can be viewed in a realistic, natural setting. Leaving the Everglades Habitat, toward the back of the park, is the famous ďSausage TreeĒ. This tree produces natural looking ďsausagesĒ. Just donít try to eat one. Next we pass the Events Pavilion and Party Pavilion. These can be rented for special occasions such as weddings or birthday parties.

The Serpentarium is the next stop on the tour. This exhibit houses poisonous and non-poisonous snakes of all kinds. If you have a horror of snakes, you might want to skip this stop. The presentation shows allow you to see these dangerous snakes up close and personal.

Onward to the Monkey Bars exhibit where monkeys frolic in free-form, natural, jungle-like settings. Playful creatures by nature, the monkey are always entertaining and it's a good time to take a break and sit on a nearby bench.

The Petting Barn is fun for all ages. I always love petting the barnyard animals such as goats, llama and sheep. Iíll never get too old for a good petting zoo! Then itís time to stop at the Tortoise Exhibit and see tortoises of all kinds. Nearby, the Jungle Theatre is venue to national touring animal shows, concerts, and special presentations. This 15-story amphitheater is not always in use; you can check the schedule or call Parrot Jungle to see if special events are occurring in the amphitheater.

Having almost completed the Parrot Jungle Loop, itís time to stop at the Lakeside Cafť where Flamingo Lake can be viewed. Pink Flamingos and Roseate Spoonbills populate the large, beautiful lake. Itís always funny to see a flamingo with those long thin legs sleeping on one foot. All healthy birds sleep on one foot, tucking the other up to rest. We stop in the cafť for a soft drink before completing the loop.

After the break, we actually complete the loop and go back to near the Posing Area to see the Bo Tree, a native tree to India which is considered sacred by the Buddhists. This unusual tree is related to the ficus trees we sometimes keep in our homes, and also to the fig tree.

Of course, having completed the loop of Parrot Jungle, I simply must return to the Posing Area for more pictures and more petting. I get to hold a Hyacinth Macaw, one of the largest parrots, elegant in bright blue feathers with bare yellow skin accenting the eyes and beak. These endangered birds and quite rare and very expensive, and this one is a lover. He wants to play and play - and of course, I want to stay and play all day. I move on to hold the Black Palm Cockatoo, another endangered species. Not the prettiest cockatoo, but the rarest, this one is solid black with a big horn colored beak and a large black crest. Bare red skin accents his eyes and beak. He, too, wants my undivided attention. I continue on, petting sun conures, cockatoos of several types including the Major Mitchell or Leadbeaterís Cockatoo, which is pink with bright pink, yellow and white visible in the crest when it is raised. Iím fortunate enough to get the cockatoo to raise his crest for me today.

There are quite a few programs available for educators and students. There is an over-night camp which can also include a birthday party and sleep over for youngsters. Educators can come to seminars and other events which prepare them to teach about the endangered species protected in Parrot Jungle. Weddings, group picnics and special events can be held in the pavilions.

An interesting note about hurricanes which pass through the Miami area: Parrot Jungle employees take the hand-feeding baby birds home with supplies and take care of them. All the other birds are placed in safe housing. During Hurricane Andrew, the worst hurricane to ravage Miami, the pink flamingos were even safe. They were herded into the restrooms of the park and withstood the onslaught in perfect safety and comfort. No birds were lost during this massive storm.

Alas, all good things come to an end and this day, too, must end. Of course, as we are leaving, Iím already planning the next trip back to Parrot Jungle! If you visit anywhere near the Miami area donít miss Parrot Jungle. Itís an affordable and educational experience that is fun for the whole family.

Directory of South Florida Cities

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