Clifton Hill in Niagara Falls, Ontario, is well known for its unusual attractions. But among them all, Bird Kingdom stands out as perhaps the most interesting and educational.
The world's largest free-flying indoor aviary in the world, Bird Kingdom is home to over 400 birds, many of which are endangered or threatened in the wild. In an area full of gaudy tourist traps and souvenir shops, the Kingdom stands out like the beautiful plumage of its flocks of avian residents.
"It's unique, and the majority of the people that work here have a love and passion for animals," said Hayley Humphries, an Animal Keeper at Bird Kingdom. "By having a location like this we're able to reach a lot of people, and also promote conservation and education and have just a good time!"
Bird Kingdom is housed in one of the area's most venerable sites.
It was originally the Spirella Corset Factory and was best known as the Niagara Falls Museum. Larry and Marilyn Vann purchased the old museum in 2001, and 2 years and $15 million in renovations later, the aviary re-opened and has been enthralling visitors ever since.
"It's got a glass ceiling, a lot of natural light for the birds to play around, and it's basically their home," said Denny Kertesz, Sales and Marketing Manager at the Kingdom. "They're all tropical birds, nice tropical environment, there's so much we can do here, it's just so educational."
The Kingdom is spread over three levels, and there's something fascinating on every floor! The main attraction is the massive main aviary, featuring a 40-foot waterfall and a 125-year-old Javanese House. There's also a small aviary, and a nocturnal room, where you can see animals like bats and owls, and even giant hissing cockroaches!
Then there's the Encounter Room.
"Once people come through, that's one of the first stops they come up again for a second look," said Humphries. "We have some giant African Spur Side Tortoises that you can reach in and pet. We have various snakes such as Burmese Pythons and Ball Pythons that can be handled and held, and we also have a variety of Parrots in the room, some of them fly around and do their own thing, and some of them you can hold as well and interact with, and they all love your attention!"
The main aviary is a beautiful habitat, lush with tropical plants, and the air is alive with hundreds of birds both large and small. Within this teeming environment is yet another amazing interactive experience called Lorikeet Landing.
"You can go inside and feed the birds," says Humphries. "The birds pretty much take over you, they land on your head, your shoulders and your arms, and you become their toys. They love to play with you and interact with you in that way."
There's so much to see and experience at Bird Kingdom, a single visit just doesn't seem to be enough to take everything in. It may be a short trip north over the border, but it will seem like you've been transported to a tropical paradise!
"Come in and see them, and enjoy the beautiful colors that they have to offer," says Kertesz. "Sometimes just looking at a picture just doesn't capture the vibrant colors that these birds have."
For more information on this incredible attraction, visit Bird Kingdom's website at www.birdkingdom.ca.