Sylvan Heights Waterfowl Park and Eco-Center near Rocky Mount, NC
About 40 miles northeast of Rocky Mount, the small town of Scotland Neck is home to a major international treasure.
The Sylvan Heights Waterfowl Park & Eco-Center opened to the public in 2006, an outgrowth of Sylvan Heights Waterfowl Center, which is recognized as one of the world’s most successful private avian breeding programs.
Offering a unique mixture of entertainment, education and environmentalism, Sylvan Heights draws some 80,000 to 90,000 tourists annually.
The breeding preserve, founded by noted aviculturalists Mike and Ali Lubbock in 1989, provides habitat and facilitates reproduction among exotic and endangered waterfowl such as the Madagascar teal, the African pygmy goose, Australia’s freckled duck and the white-winged wood duck – a critically endangered bird that is native to Asia, nicknamed the Spirit Duck for its ghostly nighttime trumpeting. Thanks to the Lubbocks, the white-winged wood duck population, believed to be fewer than 500 worldwide, is growing.
“Mike Lubbock has almost single-handedly brought back species of waterfowl from the brink of extinction,” says Russ Williams, executive director of the North Carolina Zoological Society.
The public park and eco-center allows visitors to view more than 1,000 birds representing 180 species, including ducks, swans, geese, toucans, parrots, kookaburras and peacocks. Another 1,500 birds occupy the private breeding area.
“Most of the species are in enclosed, continentally themed aviaries, so you not only get to see the waterfowl but also the plants and environmental settings from Africa, South America, North America and so on,” says Brent Lubbock, membership and development projects manager. “You enter the exhibits, where the birds are flying around, and most waterfowl will come up near enough for visitors to get a good look.”
In 2008, a flock of flamingos joined the park’s other exhibits. These birds-of-a-feather like to flock together, so the park installed mirrors in their habitat, which makes the birds think the flock is bigger than it is.
“The bigger the flock, the more secure they feel, and the better the breeding,” Lubbock says.
Another new exhibit features Trumpeters, small black birds with purple chests named for the “whoomp, whoomp” sound they make.
Ideal for school field trips, Sylvan Heights’ educational programs highlight the birds, as well as wetlands, ecology and biology.
The park also boasts the only wheelchair-accessible tree house in the state, further broadening its visitor base.
Built among the park’s white oaks, the tree house is part of a 5-acre expansion and wetland restoration project. Its roomy observation deck gives visitors a birds-eye view of the forested wetland habitat and its wildlife.
Sylvan Heights Waterfowl Park and Eco-Center is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. Visit www.shwpark.com for more information.
Learn more on the outdoors in Rocky Mount, NC.