Waterfowl Park in Roanoke Rapids, NC
Is that a kookaburra? And is that a pygmy goose standing next to a pink-eared duck?
More than 2,500 endangered birds from around the world live at Sylvan Heights Waterfowl Park in Scotland Neck. The 18-acre avian breeding preserve was established as a sanctuary in 1989, and officials decided to open it to the public in 2006.
About 25,000 visitors a year tour the park, which has become the largest breeding waterfowl complex in the world. It is also an impressive tourist attraction for the town of Scotland Neck.
Sylvan Heights Refuge
The Sylvan Heights refuge was originally founded by Mike Lubbock, who was already a successful and renowned ornithologist in England when he moved to the United States in the late 1980s. Along with his wife, Ali, their mission was to save birds from around the world whose numbers were dwindling due to habitat destruction linked to construction developments.
“Also, natural disasters like the tsunamis in recent years have also caused serious habitat destruction, so we recently took in 60 white-winged wood ducks that are native to Asia,” says Brent Lubbock, Sylvan Heights marketing director and the son of Mike and Ali. “We also saved 70 Lesser Flamingos from Africa in 2008, and a baby Lesser Flamingo chick hatched at our preserve in 2009. The Lessers are one of the smallest and rarest breeds of flamingo, so we can accommodate quite a few of them at our park. We also have five Chilean flamingos on site.”
In 2009, Sylvan Heights added an attraction called Bird’s Nest, an accessible treehouse where visitors can enjoy a bird’s-eye view of the water park’s wetlands. Besides birds, the onlookers might also see various kinds of insects, reptiles, amphibians, beavers and deer.
“It offers such a scenic venue that two weeks after it opened in September 2009, a couple booked the Tree House for their wedding,” Lubbock says.
“I should mention that another new and popular exhibit at Sylvan Heights that also opened in 2009 inside an aviary building is called the Trumpeters.
They are small, black birds with purple chests named for their ‘whoomp, whoomp’ sound.”
Lubbock says the waterfowl park offers several educational programs for students on subjects such as ornithology, wetlands and ecology, as well as specific biological work going on at the park. When it first opened for visitors in 2006, a total of 850 students visited Sylvan Heights compared to the 6,000 students who passed through its gates in 2009.
“We charge admission because we go through 1.5 tons of feed every month – we aren’t subsidized by anyone,” Lubbock says. “Admission is $5 for students and children, and $7 for adults. We also offer memberships and have 700 members to date.”
Sylvan Heights is open Tuesday-Sunday from 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
“We are focused primarily on waterfowl but also have birds such as parrots, eagles and macaws,” Lubbock says. “We have aviaries filled with birds on the grounds, as well as throughout our 18-acre wilderness. This is an interesting place for nature enthusiasts and curiosity seekers.”
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