Flock to Sylvan Heights Bird Park

More than 55,000 visit the park each year


Published:

A peacock fans his radiant feathers.

Photo courtesy of K.G. Lubbock/Sylvan Heights Bird Park

Have you ever heard the raucous call of a laughing kookaburra or watched a peacock proudly fan his colorful feathers? Maybe you’d like to hand-feed a beautiful flamingo or come face to face with an emu, one of the world's tallest birds? These unique opportunities await you at Sylvan Heights Bird Park in Scotland Neck, North Carolina, located 90 minutes from Raleigh. As one of the nation’s premier avian conservation and education centers, Sylvan Heights Bird Park offers up-close encounters with more than 2,000 magnificent birds representing 220 species from around the globe. 



Photos courtesy of Janice Lewine

A Guinea turaco and a white-faced whistling duck live in lush aviaries. 

Mike and Ali Lubbock opened Sylvan Heights Bird Park in 2006. Originally from England, the Lubbocks began breeding rare waterfowl in 1981 in Sylva, North Carolina, where they founded Sylvan Heights Waterfowl. In 1989, they moved their entire collection of birds to Scotland Neck, where they established Sylvan Heights Waterfowl II, now called the Sylvan Heights Avian Breeding Center. Today, the center’s animal husbandry and wildlife science experts raise hundreds of birds each year, with a specific focus on rare and endangered waterfowl (geese, ducks and swans). 

The center is closed to the public for the safety of the breeding birds, but Sylvan Heights Bird Park displays its waterfowl and other avian species at its lush 18-acre park, which also features natural wetlands, nature trails, a visitor center and a gift shop. More than 55,000 guests visit the park each year.

“Most of the waterfowl on exhibit at Sylvan Heights Bird Park were hatched and raised right here at the Sylvan Heights Avian Breeding Center, and some other species were obtained from zoological institutions around the country,” says Katie Lubbock, media and communications coordinator for the park. “In the case of our macaws and cockatoos, nearly all are rescued former pets. Some birds also came to us from a wildlife rehabilitation situation where they’re unable to be released back into the wild, so they have a permanent home in our aviaries.”

 

Sounds and Surroundings

Skillfully created to resemble natural habitats, these aviaries showcase birds native to South America, North America, Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia. Eight aviaries are walk-through and entice guests to observe toucans, scarlet ibis, king vultures, spoonbills, cranes, doves, swans and many other species roaming in expansive surroundings. Owls, peafowl, pheasants, hummingbirds and other feathered friends inhabit smaller aviaries. Large identification signs, featuring attractive images by renowned National Geographic photographer Joel Sartore, provide interesting tidbits about each species on exhibit.

This charming cast of characters punctuates the tranquility of Sylvan Heights Bird Park with squawks, screeches, quacks, honks, whistles, chirps and cheeps. These captivating sounds belong to ducks, flamingos, egrets, herons, parakeets, pigeons, and legions of other birds that unleash them at will.

 

Communication





Top photo courtesy of K.G. Lubbock/Sylvan Heights Bird Park; middle and bottom photos courtesy of Janice Lewine

A flamingo, scarlet macaw and scarlet ibis are just a few of the park's beloved residents. 

Some birds communicate with their guests. “Many of our macaws, African grey parrots and cockatoos will cheerfully talk to visitors,” Lubbock says. “They learn to mimic sounds and words that they hear frequently, either from their former owners or from their current environment. One of our African grey parrots even learned to mimic the warning beep that school buses make when reversing in our parking lot — and he would make the sound every time he saw a large vehicle approaching.” 

“The birds are accustomed to being around visitors and some really do seem to enjoy being in the spotlight,” Lubbock says.

“Our umbrella cockatoos love to perform for large groups of kids — they will sing and dance on their perches when school groups are nearby,” she says. “Visitors seem to be immediately attracted to the flamingos, scarlet ibis, macaws and other boisterous, colorful birds. But then they look a little closer and start to notice that even the smaller, less colorful species have something unique and interesting to offer — whether it’s an unusual song, friendly personality or amusing behavior.”

Families are sure to observe this in Wings of the Tropics, a spacious aviary that bustles with birds indigenous to Africa, South America, New Guinea, Indonesia and the desert regions of the western U.S. Here, red-billed firefinches and yellow-hooded blackbirds are in constant flight, swooping and gliding from branch to branch, chirping and singing without pause. Others, like the red-eyed Guinea turaco, often land on perches to gaze curiously at their human admirers. And the elegant crested tinamou, in between nibbles of fruit and seeds, coos softly while pecking at visitors’ shoes.

“Birds are often very social, so many of their interactions with one another tend to remind us of ourselves,” Lubbock says. “They argue with one another, play with one another, and defend their mates and offspring from potential threats.” 

It’s not uncommon to see birds break up squabbles among their young or preen each other intently. Flamingos, which are naturally gregarious, exist in colonies that can number in the thousands. Sylvan Heights Bird Park has nearly 200 flamingos on exhibit. (Watch them balance on one long leg to rest, or filter invertebrates from the mud and water through their unusual bills, giving the appearance of eating upside down.)

 

Diet

The birds’ diets vary greatly between species. Some birds, like parrots and toucans, require fresh fruit, while geese need greens. Mice and rats are staple foods for carnivorous birds, such as the park’s kookaburra and owls. Other birds, like herons and egrets, feast on fish. And Sylvan Heights Bird Park’s tiniest dwellers — hummingbirds — receive nectar and insects daily to stay in peak condition.

 

Protection

While many bird and waterfowl species claim healthy numbers in the wild, others aren’t as fortunate. Many endangered species that make their home at Sylvan Heights Bird Park — including the blue-throated macaw, Edward’s pheasant and the majestic whooping crane — are experiencing a rapid decline in population due to habitat loss and human development. Other critically endangered birds — such as the Hawaiian goose, Baer’s pochard, Laysan teal, Bernier’s teal from Madagascar and white-winged duck of Southeast Asia — are raised at Sylvan Heights Avian Breeding Center to help ensure their survival through captive breeding. Educating the public about these endangered species and their real possibility of extinction is paramount to Sylvan Heights Bird Park. 

 

Education

There are several ways you can become more familiar with the park’s cherished residents. Keeper Talks take place daily at 1:15 p.m., and offer short presentations about the king vulture, crested screamer, magpie goose or screech owl. The Landing Zone, located near the visitor center, is a large free-flight aviary where guests can purchase a parakeet seed stick or bag of flamingo food for $1 to hand-feed the birds. The Landing Zone is open daily from
10 a.m.-1 p.m. and 2-4 p.m. For families who adore penguins, the park recently announced plans for a penguin exhibit showcasing these comical, water-loving birds. 

 

Seasonal Experiences

Photo courtesy of K.G. Lubbock/Sylvan Heights Bird Park

Feed the flamingos during your visit.

Sylvan Heights Bird Park is open year-round, and each of the four seasons offers distinctive experiences. 

“During the late fall and winter, the waterfowl are looking sharp and colorful in fresh breeding plumage and practicing their breeding displays. Several species native to the southern hemisphere may raise their young during the winter, such as black-necked swans from South America,” Lubbock explains. “Spring and summer visitors will see all of our tropical birds on exhibit and our gardens in full bloom. Guests can watch ducklings hatch in the visitor center incubator and, in mid-summer, our 4-acre sunflower field adjacent to the park blooms all at once, attracting many types of birds and butterflies.” 

“Most of the birds perform fascinating mating or territorial displays at certain times of the year,” Lubbock says. “Flamingos build nests from mud and squabble with one another over territory, macaws and cockatoos talk and sing, cranes dance and throw sticks in the air. Crowned pigeons bow and make a loud booming call, hooded mergansers flash their crests and strut across the water ... every time someone visits, they will see something different.” 

Sylvan Heights Bird Park is open Tuesday-Sunday (closed Mondays), 9 a.m.-4 p.m., November through March; and 9 a.m.-5 p.m., April through October. Admission is $11 for ages 13 and older, $8 for ages 3-12 and free for ages 2 and younger. Visit shwpark.com or call 252-826-3186 to learn more.

 

Duckling Day

Once a year, on Duckling Day, Sylvan Heights Avian Breeding Center opens its doors to provide guided tours to certain members of the Sylvan Heights Waterfowl Society. Family memberships that qualify for this special event start at $159. This year, Duckling Day is May 4.

 

Janice Lewine is the associate editor of Carolina Parent.

 

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Hope Community Building, Fuquay Varina Room
Apex/Holly Springs, NC  27539
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Telephone: 191-990-25432
Contact Name: Leigh Hamm
Website »

More information

Live online classes for kids - FREE! Kids and families can join our online classes from home while school is out. Our special guests teach kids about art, medicine, music, cooking, science and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Online at your Home
265 Cambridge Ave #60923
Palo Alto, NC  94306
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Sponsor: ActivityHero
Telephone: 800-437-6125
Contact Name: Mabelle
Website »

More information

Sign up for a Raleigh scavenger hunt and put on your best Nick Cage impression as you seek out the national treasures hidden in Raleigh. Via an app, be guided through the cultural, historical,...

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Raleigh
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
Website »

More information

We invite all Triangle youth between the ages of 8 thru 17 with a sincere interest in the Performance Art of Magic to join Magic Youth Raleigh! This youth program teaches magic history and theory,...

Cost: $35 per Student

Where:
New Horizons Fellowship
820 E. Williams St.
Apex, NC  27502
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Sponsor: The International Brotherhood of Magicians
Contact Name: Roger Way
Website »

More information

River Jam at the U.S. National Whitewater Center brings together live musical performances throughout the year to a one-of-a-kind outdoor venue, right in the middle of the world’s largest...

Cost: $6

Where:
USNWC
5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy
Charlotte, NC  28214
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Sponsor: USNWC
Telephone: 704-391-3900
Contact Name: Jenny Hill
Website »

More information

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Forget tourist-filled museums, make your own memories with a photo scavenger hunt tour in Raleigh! On a Let’s Roam scavenger hunt, you and your team will work together to wander throughout...

Cost: $11

Where:
500 S Salisbury St
raleigh, NC  27601
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Sponsor: Let's Roam
Website »

More information

Farmers markets are essential to the livelihood of farmers and food producers and are exempt from the Governor's Stay at Home Order (page 6). Farmers markets offer an efficient way for residents to...

Cost: free

Where:
Holly Springs Cultural Center
300 W. Ballentine St.
Holly Springs, NC  27540
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Sponsor: Farmers Market Coordinator
Telephone: 919-567-4010
Website »

More information

  Meet at the Waterwise Garden (first parking lot on right) Join our bird enthusiast, Vernon, for an easy walk while looking and listening for our feathered friends. Discover...

Cost: FREE

Where:
Lake Crabtree County Park
1400 Aviation Pkwy.
Morrisville, NC  27560
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Sponsor: Lake Crabtree County Park
Telephone: 919-460-3355
Contact Name: Carol Cunningham
Website »

More information

PARENTS JOIN OUR DHHS APPROVEDCPR/AED & First Aid Certification ClassesFoster parents are required to be CPR & First Aid certified. Parents, bring your child to class with you. Children 10 years...

Cost: 50-80

Where:
Holly Springs, NC
1001 Silverstone Way
Holly Springs, NC  27540
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Sponsor: Save A Life Now Training Center LLC
Telephone: 919-215-6942
Contact Name: Valentina Cordoba
Website »

More information

PARENTS JOIN OUR DHHS APPROVEDCPR/AED & First Aid Certification ClassesFoster parents are required to be CPR & First Aid certified. Must register in advance. Space is limited. Parents, bring your...

Cost: 50-80

Where:
Holly Springs, NC
1001 Silverstone Way
Holly Springs, NC  27540
View map »


Sponsor: Save A Life Now Training Center LLC
Telephone: 919-215-6942
Contact Name: Valentina Cordoba
Website »

More information

Amongst the ancient oak trees is the heart of Raleigh. We'll help you see the forest for the trees and all its magic splendor. Tourist, local, or new to town, this is a lively small group activity...

Cost: $11

Where:
Downtown
500 S Salisbury St
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: Let's Roam
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: Kelly
Website »

More information

Calling all Black tech leaders and visionaries! Are you looking to spur future collaborations, discover new business and career opportunities, and invest in this community? Join us for T.H.E. State...

Cost: Varies

Where:
Durham Convention Center
301 W Morgan St
Durham, NC  27701
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Contact Name: Tarryn Henry
Website »

More information

Kindermusik is a research-based early childhood curriculum that includes 45-minute classroom lessons with materials and resources that encourages parental involvement . Research has linked...

Cost: $70/month

Where:
Hope Community Building
2080 E Williams St
Hope Community Building, Fuquay Varina Room
Apex/Holly Springs, NC  27539
View map »


Telephone: 191-990-25432
Contact Name: Leigh Hamm
Website »

More information

Live online classes for kids - FREE! Kids and families can join our online classes from home while school is out. Our special guests teach kids about art, medicine, music, cooking, science and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Online at your Home
265 Cambridge Ave #60923
Palo Alto, NC  94306
View map »


Sponsor: ActivityHero
Telephone: 800-437-6125
Contact Name: Mabelle
Website »

More information

Sign up for a Raleigh scavenger hunt and put on your best Nick Cage impression as you seek out the national treasures hidden in Raleigh. Via an app, be guided through the cultural, historical,...

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Raleigh
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
Website »

More information

The 16th Annual (Virtual) Beaver Queen Pageant, Beavers in the Stream! The Beaver Queen Pageant is the Triangle’s own special mix of folly, pageantry, and humor. Contestants take on beaver...

Cost: free

Where:
Online
, NC


Sponsor: Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association
Telephone: 919-423-1502
Contact Name: Rachel Cohn
Website »

More information

We invite all Triangle youth between the ages of 8 thru 17 with a sincere interest in the Performance Art of Magic to join Magic Youth Raleigh! This youth program teaches magic history and theory,...

Cost: $35 per Student

Where:
New Horizons Fellowship
820 E. Williams St.
Apex, NC  27502
View map »


Sponsor: The International Brotherhood of Magicians
Contact Name: Roger Way
Website »

More information

The Beaver Queen Pageant is the Triangle’s own special mix of folly, pageantry, and humor. Contestants take on beaver personalities and compete for the title of Beaver Queen with their fashion,...

Cost: free

Where:
Online
, NC


Sponsor: Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association
Telephone: 919-698-9729
Contact Name: Rachel Cohn
Website »

More information

River Jam at the U.S. National Whitewater Center brings together live musical performances throughout the year to a one-of-a-kind outdoor venue, right in the middle of the world’s largest...

Cost: $6

Where:
USNWC
5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy
Charlotte, NC  28214
View map »


Sponsor: USNWC
Telephone: 704-391-3900
Contact Name: Jenny Hill
Website »

More information

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