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Meeting Birds at National Zoo in Washington

by Barbara Rogers

Apr 13, 2023

© Aviahuismanphotography | Dreamstime.com

Destinations / North America

The newest family attraction at National Zoo in Washington gives family travelers a chance to meet wild birds up close and see them in different settings along their migrating routes. Visitors travel through immersive aviaries mimicking natural ecosystems where they make their homes and winter.


About 80 species of shorebirds, waterfowl and songbirds wade, swim and fly free in settings realistically replicating the sandy beaches of Delaware Bay, a flooded Midwestern prairie and a tropical coffee farm. Throughout these walkthrough aviaries, panels show more about the hundreds of bird species that migrate across the Americas every year.


In the first of the aviaries, Delaware Bay, visitors learn how shorebirds migrate each year between the Arctic and the southern tip of South America, as well as how the Delaware Bay is a vital refueling station. The ecosystem is complete with live fish and horseshoe crabs in addition to the shorebirds.


Pools formed in the spring by melting snow make wetlands in the Midwestern prairies, a wetland habitat for ducks and an important migratory stop for other species. A walkway winds among the pools where wildfowl swim.


Songbirds flit among the canopy trees and coffee plants of a tropical coffee farm, a favorite wintering place for some of North America’s most colorful birds, such as indigo buntings and Baltimore orioles. Outside, visitors meet a pair of barred owls, whooping cranes and flamingos.


Daily keeper talks and feeding demonstrations give more up-close views of the resident birds, and in the Observatory room, visitors can watch bird banding and learn how satellite tracking is used to follow migrating birds’ locations.


The completely re-imagined Bird House opened in March of this year. Until the resident bird grows accustomed to the new environment, visitor numbers are limited and everyone must have tickets. These are free and available at the Visitor Center or by scanning a QR code on signs throughout the park.


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