Tuesday, May 9, 2006

A Day at the Birmingham Zoo

This past week while on Spring Break in Alabama, my family and I visited the Birmingham Zoo . It had been many years since I had visited, actually since before I was in high school, so I was excited about seeing it again and introducing it to my kids.

I was pleasantly surprised. Over the years, the zoo has changed for the better. The beautiful landscaping, the shade trees, the new exhibits...all were spectacular. But one exhibit in particular stood out: the Ghost of the Bayou.

His name is Boudreaux and he is an 8-foot long albino alligator. But I'll get to him in a minute.

The first thing we saw, besides many bird exhibits, was a pond with many large, koi goldfish just begging to be fed. So, we loaded up our hands with quarters and bought some pellets from the machines that stood right next to us. The kids had a blast (OK, so did I) feeding the giant fish. A large school of bream also floated in the water waiting for a handout. It was eerie. The just floated there, staring at me with all those tiny, black eyes. Then as the pellets hit the water, the bream jumped for it like pirhanas. Scary.

The flamingo enclosure was beautiful and the graceful creatures (seen in first picture) came right up to you at the wooden fence.

The zoo also has a miniature train for children and adults to ride. It follows the track around the back section of the zoo and we enjoyed it. However, we were a little bit disappointed to see that the train's path does not allow you to see many animals on your trip, but mostly forest.

The kids headed to the reptile house next. That is their favorite exhibit in any zoo. Mommy doesn't like reptiles much, but she bravely followed her kids and husband into the building and was surprised to see that it was very nicely laid out. In fact, it was much nicer and cooler than the Brookfield Zoo here in Chicago.

Then it was on to The Gator Swamp! The boardwalk carried guests over a man-made swamp full of gators basking in the southern sun. I wouldn't like to get close to one of those babies, I can tell ya. I have posted some more pictures of the gators in previous posts, so just scroll down to see them.

After having lunch in a sit-down fast food area, the kids decided they wanted to see Boudreaux. To get to him, you have to enter the Alabama Wilds exhibit and wander down a forested path, past Grandma's Cabin (where they have story time), the Barn (which is full of barnyard animals to pet), and the Alligator Conservation Shack which is deep in the woods and covered with Spanish moss. While at the Shack, we saw some wild turkey, a baby gator and some type of hawk/falcon. Then we walked on.

Finally, after passing a dinosaur dig, you come upon Boudreaux's hideout. A small pond and Spanish moss dominate the scene until you turn a corner and then...

Boudreaux! It was pretty cool seeing an albino gator, much less seeing him so close-up. It was awe-inspiring. I tell you what...now I know why gators are so dangerous.

Later on, the kids decided to feed the birds. At the Lorikeet exhibit, people were allowed in the bird "cage" and for a dollar, you could buy a small cup of nectar which the birds love. All four of us happily sat there and let these beautiful birds land on our arms, our heads and our hands so they could lick up the precious nectar in our cups. Did you know that their tongues were furry like a cat's, but only at the tips so they can dip their tongues in the cup and capture the nectar in the furred part. It was amazing!

After seeing more snakes (in exhibits) than I cared to, we decided to make it a day. We decided to leave the bigger animals, like the elephants, rhinos, ect... for another day. But before we left, the boys begged to be allowed to play in the fountains near the kid's pavilion. It's lovely...and very popular with the young moms and their offspring. The outside eating area was full of happy kids playing in the fountain areas and tired moms and dads sitting at the tables having snacks and socializing. There was even a merry-go-round filled with zoo animal-like shapes for the kids to sit on. The boys got soaked, we rested our feet and the day ended very nicely.

The Birmingham Zoo may be smaller than what we are used to up here (by that I mean the Brookfield Zoo...the Lincoln Park Zoo is about the size of the Birmingham one), but it has a lot to offer and it's exhibits are very well thought out and built. We really enjoyed our stay and will definitely go back next time we visit Alabama.


Adults - $11*
Children 2 - 12 years old - $6*
Seniors Citizens 65+ - $6*
Members receive free admission every day!
Admission is half price every Tuesday.
* Plus tax.


Open year round from 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. Monday through Sunday.
The Zoo is closed Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.
Extended summer hours Memorial Day through Labor Day, open Tuesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays until 7 p.m.

Dana Sieben