New birds — called lorikeets — debut at the Everglades Wonder Gardens in Bonita Springs
Inside their cage, a couple dozen jewel-tone birds sang in a chorus of high-pitched squeaks. They were hungry.
Then the cage door opened.
The blue-and-green feathered creatures hopped out and flew around the pavilion that keeps them safe while people visit. The birds puffed their red-orange chests and landed on outstretched arms of visitors holding shot glasses filled with tempting nectar.
The 24 rainbow lorikeets, found in Australia and New Guinea, are the newest birds at the Everglades Wonder Gardens, the historic landmark on Old 41 Road in Bonita Springs. On Tuesday, the Wonder Gardens celebrated the opening of the birds’ new home, the Terry and Arlene Riegel Lorikeet Pavilion.
The lorikeets are among the more than 50 different species of birds at the Everglades Wonder Gardens. Some, such as the chickens and turkeys, live in enclosures. Others, such as the peacocks and flamingos, roam free around the gardens.
Many of the birds are rescues. All call the Wonder Gardens home.
“The whole theme here is immersive, engaging and interactive,” said Thomas Hecker, president and CEO of the Wonder Gardens. “It’s all about education. Kids love this place.”
Birds in enclosures
The rainbow lorikeets new home is a solarium-style structure, the third of four to open at the Wonder Gardens since October.
The fourth pavilion is planned to open in April, Hecker said. It will be home to honeycreepers. .
“They’re bright and colorful, like hummingbirds,” Hecker said.
The lorikeets on Tuesday morning dipped their heads in glasses of nectar. They sat on a Melaleuca tree branch or fluttered around the pavilion.
“It’s delightful,” said Terry Riegel, who with his wife, Arlene, donated money for the pavilion. “It’s a lot of fun. They’re really nice birds.”
Lorikeets are members of the parrot family and feed on nectar and fruit, Hecker said.
These lorikeets also are movie stars, he said.
They were used in the filming of "Suicide Squad 2," the antihero film sequel scheduled for release in 2021.
Across the Wonder Gardens, a different set of birds have a home in the landmark's historic aviary.
The structure has been at the gardens for about 50 years. Hecker has a donor who will help the Wonder Gardens improve the space, he said.
“We will make waterfalls,” Hecker said. “We just want to make it immersive.”
The aviary now holds Mandarin ducks and golden pheasants from China. The male pheasants are brilliant colors of red and orange.
“They try to dazzle the females,” Hecker said.
It’s also home to wood ducks and a whistling duck. They feed on corn.
Next to the aviary is the enclosure for two Osceola turkeys. The male and female birds are native to Florida and about 4 years old. They arrived at the Wonder Gardens in 2017.
A 28-year-old cockatoo named Casey lives in a cage nearby. Casey came to the Wonder Gardens after the death of his owner, Hecker said.
The white cockatoo likes to dance.
“We’re trying to train him to a song,” Hecker said.
Birds roaming free
Nine peacocks wander the grounds of the Wonder Gardens every day.
There are albino peacocks in striking white. There are male peacocks with bright blue-and-green feathers, named Picasso and Paulo. There are peahens with more muted colors.
Flamingos and ibises strut through the sand and water at the lagoon. Visitors enjoy feeding the birds and seeing them up close, Hecker said.
Hecker is calling 2020 the year of the flamingo. The Wonder Gardens wants to purchase more of the pink birds, Hecker said.
“I want to create one of the best flamingo experiences ever,” he said.
Riegel said he and his wife enjoy feeding the flamingos at the Wonder Gardens, he said.
“It’s such an experience,” Riegel said. “We enjoy the animals and all of the foliage here.”
If you go:
Visit the Everglades Wonder Gardens
Where: 27180 Old 41 Road, Bonita Springs
Hours: Daily, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Admission: Adults 13-64: $12; Seniors (65+): $10; Children 3-12: $7; Under 3: Free