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 The Birdiest Place on Earth?

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PostSubject: The Birdiest Place on Earth?   Tue Apr 29, 2008 4:50 pm

WALT DISNEY WORLD, Fla. In this kingdom of fantasy, there's magic in reality, too. Birds, some of them thrillingly rare or unusual, come here to spend the summer or take a break in their travels. Bird-watching is an unexpected and lesser-known attractions at Walt Disney World, but they can delight as much as a twirl in a teacup, a wild ride down an Everest look-alike or a face-to-ears encounter with Mickey Mouse.

Disney World lies below that great avian interstate, the Atlantic Flyway. Birds returning from wintering in Central and South America wing directly over Florida, some stopping there for spring and summer breeding, others continuing into the Northeast, Canada and the far north. "In Florida, you can look up, and there's always something in the sky," says Chris Newton, a bird and animal keeper in the aviary at Animal Kingdom.

Birders with and without their binoculars can see dozens of species. One-third of Disney World's 45 square miles is protected for wildlife. From a bird's-eye view, the lakes, trees, grasslands even the theme parks teeming with people are an invitation to come on down. Waders, herons, land migrants, songbirds, raptors, rails and every species of egret have stopped or stayed in at the park, according to Grenville Roles, curator of birds at Animal Kingdom. Mallards, egrets and ibises walk the paths beside parkgoers. Moochers of several species stalk the outside tables at restaurants, looking for leftovers. Perching birds prattle and sing in the shrubs and trees. To see less-familiar species, watchers generally need to leave the crowds behind.

Renting a boat or kayak at the Contemporary Resort marina, crossing a short distance across Bay Lake and circling the shoreline of the former Discovery Island reveals a nursery. Hundreds of white ibis, egrets, herons, cormorants and others nest on the island, closed to the public when Animal Kingdom opened.

A quiet walk among the trees in the farm area at Fort Wilderness Campground and Resort produces different delights. A northern parula warbler's buzz-buzz-trill sounds from a low branch, a mockingbird tunes up, a brown thrasher snatches insects in a patch of lawn. The area is rustic but not unpeopled. Yet, walking farther along the paved paths turns up titmice, cedar waxwings and a great-crested flycatcher. Then, suddenly, a bald eagle wings overhead.

Animal Kingdom offers unique opportunities for birders. Almost more parkland than theme park, it's a habitat for a range of birds. "This is the biggest botanical collection to be developed in the Western Hemisphere in the last hundred years," says Mr. Roles. Exotic birds show themselves on the self-guided Maharajah Jungle Trek through a manmade forest.

Living peacefully in its savannah where the big cats roam are sarus cranes, at nearly 6 feet, tall enough for the NBA if only they could shoot. Northern orioles are orange flashes nearby. Java green peacocks strut. Bar-headed geese, which in their native Asia migrate over the Himalayas, peck contentedly in the short grass.

For birders, the Red Pavilion is the trek's E-ticket. An enclosed aviary, it has feeding stations that draw its nearly 100 resident exotics into the open. A laminated guide helps trekkers identify birds such as doves, rollers, plovers and the golden pheasant. ("I don't know how something that colorful can survive in the wild," says Mr. Roles.) The beauty at hand has a purpose. The park is "the connecting point where we hope to inspire people to conservation action," says Mr. Roles.


I am a big Star Wars Disney Geek, and would love to meet some more.
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PostSubject: Re: The Birdiest Place on Earth?   Tue Apr 29, 2008 10:30 pm

oh great. D:
i hate birds. ahahaha
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