Calling all bird lovers!
If you have plans to visit Washington, D.C. in the future, you’re in for a treat. After a six-year, $69 million renovation, the National Zoo is set to reopen its Bird House, which is home to 170 birds representing 72 species (indoor and outside).
Originally built in 1928, the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute’s (NZCBI) Bird House is now a multi-sensory immersive experience with three walk-through aviaries that explore migratory songbirds and waterfowl shorebirds native to North, Central and South American ecosystems. The Bird House mimics natural ecosystems and has a variety of free-flighted birds that will “stride, paddle, tweet and fly” around visitors.
Baltimore orioles, barred parakeets, other birds and even some fish and invertebrates can be found in these aviaries, which take guests through the Delaware Bay, the northern Great Plains, wetlands, a tropical coffee farm, and an outdoor plateau with barred owls, turkeys and American flamingos.
The zoo will also host Keeper talks and animal encounters.
The goal of the Bird House is to help visitors learn how to live “bird friendly” and protect native species in their own backyards.
“Now more than ever, raising awareness about the plight of migratory birds is key to their survival,” Brandie Smith, Ph.D., the John and Adrienne Mars director of NZCBI, said in a press release. “As visitors walk through our spectacular aviaries and see these beautiful birds up close, I want them to appreciate the awe-inspiring journeys these animals make every year and walk away with the desire and knowledge to protect birds and their shrinking habitats.”
Along with the animal habitats, the building includes a mosaic arch decorated with parrots, toucans, songbirds and other tropical species, which visitors will see upon arrival. The artwork was originally part of the 1928 front entrance to the Bird House, along with a pillar head that was buried on zoo grounds and uncovered during excavation. The pillar now stands in the nearby Plateau Gardens.
Other details include the Bird Observatory room, where visitors can see how researchers use satellite tracking to learn where birds go. They can also find out how climate, native and introduced predators, and the availability (or lack) of prey cause bird populations to change. Here, Migratory Bird Center researchers will offer free demonstrations on bird banding to study wild birds and host guided walks.
The immersive Flyaway experience includes aluminum bird silhouettes suspended from the ceiling and larger-than-life images of some of the native birds visitors will see, like the wood thrush, black-necked stilt, sanderling and canvasback duck.
The Bird House has been closed for renovation since January 2017 and will reopen on March 13. To help the birds acclimate to visitors, same-day timed entry passes are required for the first few months. These are available on-site at the zoo.