Niagara Falls: Birds, Butterflies, Beauty
Last week I visited Niagara Falls for a trifecta: it was my birthday, my father’s birthday, and Mother’s Day. After a day of visiting with the extended family, we drove 20 minutes to the Canadian side of Niagara Falls. Our first stop was Bird Kingdom, which is one of the first attractions you spot crossing the International Rainbow Bridge.
Our family was joined by an Animal Care Supervisor who coincidentally gave me a tour of the facility ten years ago! She first showed us the museum section of the building which highlights the fact that Bird Kingdom resides in a building which was the original Spirella Corset Factory. The facility, built in 1907, was one of the first poured concrete buildings ever made in Canada. She then toured us through the animal encounters room where we picked from a variety of parrots to photograph with. I choose a vibrant red female eclectus.
One of their interns was providing environmental enrichment for the large tortoises. The intern created a watermelon swing which the reptiles enjoyed foraging for. We then went onto the small bird aviary, which is occupied by quick, tiny songful birds. The birds were busy calling to one another, building nests and taking baths. I really enjoyed the mousebirds, who followed us along the pathway. Mousebirds have a reversable outer toe which helps them climb trees. This aviary overlooks the Niagara River Gorge which is a popular bird watching area. Hooded mergansers, common loons, ducks, geese, raptors including bald eagles and peregrine falcons and around 20 gull species can be seen at various times throughout the year. The vantage point from this aviary should not be overlooked.
After the small bird aviary, our guide took us through the Night Jungle section which hosts nocturnal animals like owls, bats, poison dart frogs and axolotls – a salamander which can reach sexual maturity without undergoing metamorphosis.
Bird Kingdom’s main attraction is their 50,000 square foot multi-level rainforest aviary which hosts hundreds of birds and nearly 80 species from around the world. The main aviary is humid and tropical and felt perfect on the grey day we visited. Growing up in Niagara Falls, I know this attraction would be a great escape from the elements for about 9 months a year. I thoroughly enjoyed this accredited attraction. My family spent around 2 hours there. If we had more time on the overall visit, we would have allotted more time for Bird Kingdom, as it is a great place to hone your photography skills.
After the aviary we visited the Niagara Parks botanical gardens and butterfly conservatory. On the conservatory’s website it says that 60% of the butterflies come from butterfly farms in Costa Rica, El Salvador and the Philippines. The remaining 40% are raised in quarantined greenhouses located behind the Conservatory. I’m not sure how I feel about that. I don’t know if importing butterflies from those countries is sustainable or necessary. Walking along the nearly 600 feet of pathways I did not see any host plants for caterpillars – it was all nectar sources. The vegetation in the conservatory was lush and ‘perfect’. I would have preferred to see caterpillars chomping away on plants, if I knew that meant a more sustainable attraction. Nevertheless, the butterflies are stunning dancing around the conservatory with the flowering plants and indoor waterfall in the background.
Outside in the botanical gardens, plants were emerging from their winter slumber. The 40 hectare park was established in 1936 and is a beautiful, restful retreat from the hectic bustling Clifton Hill, which has museums, a multi-sensory zombie attack experience, go-cart track and mini golf. The botanical gardens include perennials, rhododendrons, azaleas, a parterre garden (formal symmetrical garden), herbs and vegetables, and a rose garden containing over 2,400 roses. The gardens are free and have a great contemplative appeal. On my visit daffodils and tulips were in bloom and looked gorgeous. Magnolias, Japanese cherry, flowering dogwood, red buds, crabapples, and lilacs were also starting to signal spring is here with their emerging flowers.
We ended our Canadian Niagara Falls adventure by taking pictures in front of Niagara Falls and the Horseshoe Falls and then viewing them from the 175 feet Niagara SkyWheel Ferris wheel. The ride lasted around 12 minutes and provided a bird’s eye view of the falls and parks. The gondolas are fully enclosed and are climate controlled for year-round enjoyment. The attraction also runs during the day and night. The night view when the falls are light up and there are fireworks is enchanting. Sunset would also be a great time to ride the SkyWheel. The picturesque views along with the fact that you go around multiple times makes this a fun must-do attraction.
Niagara Falls is beautiful with its birds, butterflies and botanical gardens.