Wednesday, December 09, 2015


Flamingo filter feeding
 I tend to be wary when I see places called "Animal-name Park" or "Animal-name Gardens." In my experience they tend to be tourist traps that do not take good care of the animal they are named for. But I was pleasantly surprised with Flamingo Gardens in Fort Lauderdale. The GPS took the scenic route, I think, and the rain and traffic did not make for a pleasant journey. Yes, the gift shop was huge, and you entered the facility through the gift shop, but once inside we discovered that they are a botanical garden and wildlife refuge for non-releasable birds and other animals.
Due to the rain, we practically had the place to ourselves, with a private tram tour of the gardens and he animal encounter program. We ate lunch right next to the Flamingo pool, which hosted lots of wild Ibis as well, and got to make some good observations of their behavior as they fed and preened. Disney's Fantasia is one of my favorite movies, especially the episode with a Flamingo playing with a yo-yo while his flock mates all moved in unison. I took a video of them doing exactly that - dancing to choreography - but not one of them played with a yo-yo.
Flamingo webbed feet
For example, did you know that Flamingos have webbed feet, just like ducks? I thought this peculiar, since they don't actually swim, but wade around on their long legs.
White Ibis
The Ibis were very interested in our lunch, and came over to look for handouts or scraps lost on the floor when they finished bathing and preening.
Flamingo Gardens Everglades Wildlife Sanctuary gives residence to permanently injured and non-releasable birds and animals, and is home to the largest collection of Florida native wildlife- including alligators, bear, bobcats, eagles, otters, panthers, peacocks and flamingos! All the enclosures were large and clean. We walked through a large free-flight aviary with this sign on the door. #14 struck me as especially important!
Since I spend many hours cleaning bird poop at Raptor Rehab, I appreciated all the work it took for this. They had good representatives of the raptors, as well as Pelicans, Gulls, and other water birds. All the birds were busy preening, a sign of their good health.
Yellow-crowned Heron

Unfortunately, since these birds were in captivity, we can't honestly include them on our list for this trip, but it was still exciting to see them.
Oz the Opossum
The Wildlife Encounter was very casual, since we were the only audience. Oz the Opossum is a four-year old marsupial, which is very unusual - they rarely live that long. Look at those long teeth! He has 40 of them! A young opossum is ready to breed when only 6 months old. He doesn't see well during the day, but has a really good sniffer. When his fruit treats were gone, he knew to sniff his way back to his basket for a nap. All the other mammals and the reptiles looked healthy and relatively content. Their river otter pair have raised more young otters for release than any others in the country.

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