A jurong bird park visit

Jurong Bird Park.

“Fire the cannon!”

At his keeper’s command, Sudden Shot, a beautiful blue-fronted Amazon parrot, bends his head.

His powerful beak presses the trigger.

Instantly a table-tennis-type plastic ball shoots from the metal tube.

But it does not have the chance to travel far.

Mr. Horn, a well-groomed toucan, is waiting for it.

A toucan with trainer.

With a deft flick of the head, his extraordinary orange-colored bill opens to pluck the ball from the air with the greatest of ease.

The keeper rewards our feathered duo with seeds readily at hand as the audience in the small amphitheater breaks into spontaneous applause.

Every year, close to three quarters of a million people visit Singapore’s Jurong Bird Park, a 50-acre (20 ha) site that has become home to more than 3,000 birds, over 300 species gathered from around the world.

Visitors to Singapore Jurong Bird Park.

What a fascinating, delightful place it is!

Five acres (2 ha) of the park are now “the world’s largest enclosed walk-in aviary,” as the official guidebook describes it.

As we stroll through under the fine mesh draped high above the trees, birds are everywhere.

Brilliantly colored parrots chatter noisily as a fairy bluebird quietly flits from tree to tree.

Parrots at Jurong Bird Park.

A purple gallinule deftly walks across the water lily leaves, its enormous feet giving it perfect balance.

Numerous waterfowl splash in a stream fed from a one-hundred-foot high (30 m) artificial waterfall.

Waterfowls at Jurong Bird Park.

At the end of the path, we join a group of tourists to admire a proud peacock with tail open in full display.

Picture of a peacock.

In complete contrast, all is quiet in the nocturnal house.

Rare owls perch motionless as we whisper to each other in the darkened corridors.

Picture of a owl.

Black-crowned and nankeen night herons wait patiently in their mangrove-swamp setting.

Picture of Black-crowned Heron.

But the rarest birds we had hoped to see, the kiwis, New Zealand’s national symbol, remain elusive to us.

Then we see the unusual Australian tawny frogmouth unexpectedly staring down at us.

Picture of the strange Australian tawny frogmouth.

Out in the open once again, we pass the lake, resplendent with its flock of flamingos, and go on to quieter pathways.

Picture of flamingos at Jurong Bird Park.

We marvel at the birds of prey and move on to watch breathlessly as the hummingbirds so delicately sip nectar from the hibiscus.

How is it possible that this, the smallest of birds—some weigh less than an ounce (28 gm)—can beat its wings up to 70 times a second?

Truly, it is a magnificent marvel of design.

To care for the inhabitants of this Jurong Bird Park is a prodigious task.

Correct foods and habitats have to be maintained carefully.

Yet, despite Singapore’s tropical heat, penguins from the cold waters off South America’s west coast breed contentedly here, just as the native songbirds do.

Picture of penguins at Jurong Bird Park.

Now we are just in time to see Mac the macaw go through a circular loop.

As he pedals across the stage, the young children shriek with delight.

Picture of macaw doing a trick at Jurong Bird Park.

“It took three months to teach Mac to do it,” explains the park’s public-relations manager, “and we train between 50 and 60 birds a year.”

Trainers have to be kind and patient.

Birds are rewarded, never punished.

“We are still looking for two more bird trainers.”

But it is not for us.

Soon we must return to our northern clime, to our friendly robin, whose red breast will bring a little color into our garden.

Picture of a robin.

Then, how pleasant it will be to recall memories of this glorious pageant