February 1, 2004
After visiting the spectacular Brazil side of the falls, our tour guide Edson from Iguassu Falls Tours drove us to the Parque das Aves (Bird Park). The entrance is a small, white stucco building with a colorful sign outside that doesn't quite prepare you for what is inside.
Frank had read about this place online, in a blog kept by a Berkeley student doing an externship at the park. He wrote her and she responded that it was a very safe, wonderful place and that our little guy would just love it. We talked it up quite a bit to Alexander, who was excited to see all the birds. We told him we would see toucans, and he said, "What about One-cans?"
Unfortunately, we didn't see any one-cans, but we saw lots of toucans, flamingos, macaws, parrots of all varieties, and birds with amazing colors and plumage. The black crowned crane (on the right) was one of my favorites. I'm sure a dedicated birder would be able to spot many of these birds in the rainforest on a hike, but for us, this was a great way to spend an afternoon with a noisy three-year old in tow.
The foliage inside the park was quite dense, and by this time of the afternoon, it had gotten cloudy, so my pictures are a bit dark and don't do justice to how exquisite these birds were. I was still using a film camera (Canon Rebel) at the time, so I had no way to know how the pictures would turn out until I got home.
I have always been fascinated by birds, although I'm not a birder by any stretch of the imagination. I think it is thrilling to see birds in the wild, but they are usually too fast for me to be able to identify what they are.
Some of the birds were in cages, and some were left out wandering about in the rainforest-like enclosure of the park. We would be walking down a path, and look up and see a toucan above our heads, staring down at us suspiciously, or see one hopping around on the ground. I had only seen pictures of toucans before this trip, so it was quite a treat to see them in person, with their yellow and orange beaks, they looked more like cartoon birds than anything you would expect to find in nature. I felt a little sorry for the birds in enclosures, but they appeared to be well-cared for and not entirely unhappy.
We were warned to be sure to close the doors between the enclosures so that the birds could not go between cages and make trouble for each other. They seemed to be partitioned off based on species, and I assume some did not get along well with others.
In addition to the birds, there was also a pond with some small Caimans, a variety of South American crocodile. There are also anaconda and other snakes in the park. They must have been hiding out, because we didn't see any, which was just fine with me.
One of the enclosures was a beautiful butterfly garden with incredible butterflies swooping about, so thick they looked like flowers on the trees until they moved. The lush, deep green, waxy foliage with yellow and orange flowers was a perfect backdrop for the butterflies. Alexander looked around with his mouth agape, astonished at the wonder of it all. We sat on a bench in the butterfly garden for quite a while, quite lost in the magic of the place.
"Avast ye mateys! Argh!" he said, making Alexander and me laugh, along with the staff and other park patrons. I guess "Pirate" is a universal language.
The woman wrangling the birds took the macaw off Frank's should after we took a few snapshots, and held it in her arms like a baby. Alexander, without any prompting, walked up to her and held his arms outstretched, letting her know that he wanted to hold the bird. She gently laid the bird in his arms, and he cradled it like a baby. The bird lay perfectly still, and I held my breath, a little worried that Alexander would upset the bird, or the bird would upset Alexander. Both seemed to get along just fine, and it was a lovely sight to see. Alex was very gentle with his new bird friend, and the bird was very gentle with him.
I told Frank that that image of Alexander with the bird in his arms made the entire trip worthwhile, and is a memory I will cherish forever.