Saturday, November 13, 2010

Jurong Bird Park

Over the Deepavali holiday weekend, Bryan got ahold of corporate passes from work so we could go to the Jurong Bird Park for free.  The bird park is run by the same organization that runs the Singapore Zoo and the Night Safari, so I expected it to be pretty well done.  However, I still had some qualms.  I always have mixed feelings about animals in captivity- I think it's good for people to be able to see animals and learn about them, and I know that zoos often serve conservation functions, such as breeding endangered animals, but I still feel bad for the trapped animals.  For some reason I feel especially bad for birds, particularly when they have their wings I headed off with some excitement but a dose of trepidation too.

Just inside the park, next to the pretty flamingo statues and the Hawk Cafe, elegant black swans swam around with some fluffy ducks.  The ducks kept puffing out their head feathers, making themselves look like they had wacky hairdos.  I loved them!
This duck looks like the Fonz...

Colorful macaws were right near the park entrance.  Many of them were preening themselves, two of them were posturing at one another and appeared to be bickering, and some were munching away at the log they were perched on (in the wild, I think they peel away bark and eat the insects they find underneath).
Any bugs under there?
Can't we all just get along?
Awww, that's much better.

Next up were the elegant flamingos with their bendy pipe cleaner necks.  Flamingo chicks usually hatch white or gray.  The characteristic pink color doesn't come until they get on an adult diet of animal and plant plankton, which contain proteins that give them their bright hue.
Pretty in pink

Everywhere we turned there was another set of bird eyes, peering down from a tree or peeking from behind a cage.  A lot of the birds were in open-air enclosures.  I remembered seeing a bird like this grey crowned crane in the Nairobi Animal Sanctuary a few years ago.  The cartoon-like creature below that is called a shoebill.
Fancy headgear
Funny-looking shoebill

I couldn't help but laugh when we got to the storks.  In storybooks, they're always portrayed as lovely, swan-like birds, gently delivering swaddled bundles of joy to expectant parents.  These birds were hideous!  They looked more like vultures than swans!  Why, some of them looked like elderly avian burn victims!  I mean, I'm sure there are some types of stork that are better-looking than these guys, but it was still a silly image.
Ugly bugger, isn't he?
Another ugly member of the stork fam

The ducks next door definitely would have beat out the storks in a beauty contest.
This guy made me miss the overly friendly ducks at NMSU
Paint-by-numbers duck

We stopped by an exhibit of Southeast Asian birds.  The area was nice- it was open and although some of the birds were in cages, a lot were free to flit about your head as you tried desperately to not get crapped on.  It was neat to be so close to the exotic birds, but I was annoyed when a little girl came running past me, chasing a peahen with a stick while her father followed, laughing gleefully.  Nice.  Anyway, it was cool to see some of the birds that we haven't yet succeeded at seeing in the wild.  There were lots of the critically endangered Bali mynahs, which the zoo works on breeding and releasing back into their native habitat.  But my favorite was a shiny blue bird with red eyes, whose proper name I can't recall.  There were also lots of colorful and unusual types of peafowl roaming about.
Doesn't he look like he's wearing a helmet?  Maybe with some chainmail?
Peahen, much duller than her male counterpart, the peacock
Doesn't this toucan's beak look hand painted?
Bird with papaya...and lots of COLORS!
I loved her dusky blue color

After visiting the Southeast Asian birds for awhile, we went to on to the Lory Loft.  It was another aviary that you could walk into and have the birds fly all around you.  There were all sorts of fantastic birds around- rainbow lories, yellow-bibbed and red lories, black-capped, blue-streaked, and dusky ones.  They were selling nectar to feed the birds and I think I broke the rules when I picked up a cup of it that someone else had set down and walked away from.  Bryan and I passed the nectar back and forth and it was fun to have the birds eat out of our hands and perch on our arms.  The whole place was just thrumming with birdsong- those little lories can make a lot of noise!
Black-capped lory
Rainbow Lory wants to be your friend!

Rainbow lories on my arm
They loved me!
But Bryan had a little trouble...
Eventually he got the hang of it!

After successfully escaping the Lory Loft poop-free, it was getting cloudy and a bit rainy, so we went indoors to the World of Darkness.  On our way, we tried to stop by to see the birds of paradise, which we got really enthusiastic about after seeing them in all their glory on an episode of Planet Earth.  They seemed to be hiding pretty good, and we only managed to spot one obscured by a lot of branches.  So we moved on.  The World of Darkness, as you can probably imagine, houses a variety of nocturnal birds, mostly owls.  They were awesome, especially the fluffy snowy owls, but it was very difficult to get photographs of them (no flash photography!!  it hurts their light-sensitive eyes). 
Hedwig?!?!  How did you get here?!
Wouldn't want to be a mouse trying to get away from this one...

When we walked out of the dark, it was still kind of crummy outside so we decided to call it a day.  I'd heard about a vegetarian restaurant in The Village, across from the Bird Park.  We decided to give the place (Eight Immortals) a try.  It was only about 4:15 PM, but our breakfast pancakes had pretty much worn off.  It turned out that the restaurant wasn't open yet, and neither were any of the other places in The Village.  The whole place was pretty much deserted except for a guy at the information desk and a whole bunch of people outside.  We decided to go see why they were all crowded around.

That was when we walked into one of the stranger attractions I've visited in Singapore.  The people were all chilling at a place called Jurong Hill Prawn Fishing & Beer Garden.  People were lining the edges of five or six big, square pools.  Everyone had a simple fishing pole in the water and every once in a while someone would flick their pole backward and tug a squirming gray prawn out of the water.  Then they'd unhook the prawn, drop it into a net secured in the water by their feet, rebait their hook and start over.

It was such a strange thing to have stumbled upon that we just stood there and stared at the production for awhile, a little dumbstruck.  I started to walk a little closer to the front counter and just as I took my first step, a flying prawn cam straight at me, almost pegging me in the forehead!  I shrieked and ducked low and it swung over my head.  I looked up, in utter confusion, into the face of a shrieking Singaporean girl who was swinging the prawn every which way.  I had a feeling this might be her first time.  We laughed and snapped some photos of her catch.
The Magnificent Flying Prawn

Over by the front desk was a tank which contained a bunch of little prawns and one massive big daddy.  According to the tag on the aquarium, he was all yours for only S$40!  Up until we saw the ones at the fishing place, I don't think I actually really had any idea what prawns looked like.  I certainly didn't know they had these really long arm-like things with pincers on the ends.  I thought they were pretty much the same as shrimp, but they looked a lot more complicated.  And they can get so big!  The one in the tank looked like a lobster!!
I don't understand how these things came to be considered edible.

Our dinner options thwarted and not wanting to fish our food out of the water, we headed back to Jurong Point and ate at a little European Cafe called Ambush.  It was a tasty end to a long day!  And after all those birds, I was glad that Bryan didn't order chicken...


  1. Have you been to KL's bird park? I like it much better than Singapore's. It is mostly free-flight, only the most dangerous birds are in enclosures, such as ostrich and eagle. It is really funny when a bunch of pelicans walk up on the trail just like any visitor ...

  2. No, we didn't make it there when we were in KL. In fact, I don't even think I knew it was there! We'll have to make a trip if we ever go back. I was telling Bryan about the free-roaming peacocks in the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago. They're so funny, they just pop out of the most unexpected places sometimes.

  3. The park is one of the best or I just say the only best one in the world. Clean, well planned and a great collection of birds from across the world.