By MIRANDA BAINES
THE DAILY SOUTHERNER
SCOTLAND NECK —
SCOTLAND NECK – Sylvan Heights Waterfowl Park opens up a “whole new world” to visitors. While it is only a 35-minute drive from Tarboro, it might as well be on a different planet, or continent for that matter. The park showcases birds from all over the world, in six continental-themed aviaries as well as other exhibits.
On Saturday, the park is participating in “free museum day” through the Smithsonian Magazine. Visit the website, www.smithsonian.com/museumdaylive and print out a ticket. One ticket guarantees free admission for the ticket holder and a guest.
“There’s 2,500 birds to view,” said Brent Lubbock, son of waterfowl park founder Mike Lubbock.
The park, situated on 18 acres of land, is home to more than 170 species. For instance, eight known swan species are in existence on the planet, and the park has all eight species, including the Trumpeter – the world’s largest species of swan.
“That’s what makes us the largest waterfowl facility,” Brent Lubbock said.
The park is designed for open interaction with the birds that freely roam around the aviaries with no barriers separating them from the tourists. One of the exhibits in particular, “The Landing Zone,” offers visitors a chance to hold out sticks of birdfeed on which parakeets land to eat the food. The small, colorful parakeets are known to land and perch on the shoulders of tourists in the exhibit, as well.
After the lively interaction of The Landing Zone, visitors travel through an oasis-like habitat with the sounds of birds chirping, splashing in the water and flapping their wings.
“People like the tranquility of it,” Mike Lubbock said. His son Brent agreed.
“It has that calming agent to it – watching birds.”
The birds blend into a seemingly natural habitat; for instance, scarlet ibis can be seen around a banana tree in the South American aviary. The scarlet ibis gets its coloration from the small crustaceans and other small marine animals that it eats. Other birds inhabiting the South America aviary are the coscoroba swan, known from the sound it makes, and the Macaw parrot.
After watching the waterfowl in the aviaries for a couple of hours, it is easy to see that no two birds are alike. An imposing two-to-three-foot-tall female Eurasian Eagle owl stands on a perch in her cage, surveying her surroundings with a seemingly watchful eye, while whistling ducks swim placidly in the pond in the Eurasia exhibit, and pink Caribbean flamingos in the Landing Zone stand at the ready to stick out their beaks for visitors who want to feed them.
“It brings a sort of an amazement in diversity,” said Brent Lubbock. “It makes one appreciate and hopefully inspires them to learn about the different things in the world and what makes them wonderful.”
The park is also home to about 18 endangered species of birds, including the whooping crane, which is considered “highly endangered.”
“Endangered means there’s only a few hundred left in the wild,” Brent Lubbock said.
In an area across from the whooping crane is the demoiselle crane, one of the highest-flying birds in the world, known to fly over Mt. Everest.
Birds aren’t the only creatures visitors will see at the waterfowl park. One exhibit features a live beehive and poisonous dart frogs. Seeing the beehive illustrates a part of the “cycle of life,” showing the importance of pollinating the plants to help feed the wildlife, Brent Lubbock said. The park also has one of the only handicap-accessible tree houses in the state, where visitors can observe native wildlife such as beavers and deer.
“If you like the outdoors, I think eastern North Carolina is a great place to experience that,” Brent Lubbock said. The park gives people in the area a chance to experience the outdoors, for about the price of a movie ticket -- $5 for children, $7 for seniors and $9 for adults.
Sylvan Heights Waterfowl Park is open to walk-in guests from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday and closed on Mondays. To schedule a guided tour, call the park at 252-826-3186.
The park is at 1829 Lees Meadow Road in Scotland Neck.