We discovered something new in Del Mar last month. Tucked into a little corner near the fairgrounds is Free Flight, an exotic bird sanctuary. This little refuge provides visitors with knowledge, entertainment and unique inspiration. This safe haven also provides unwanted birds with the opportunity for social interaction and care.
We have been visiting Del Mar for the last 19+ years, as this is where Chris’ mom lived. After all of these years…visiting this posh little coastal town, you would think that we would have known about this venue. Nope. At least not until I hopped onto TripAdvisor in search of something new for the kids and I to do. Bingo.
This teeny-tiny spot was just the adventure we needed to escape for an hour. Yes, one hour. We could of spent longer, but we did not arrive until one hour prior to closing. It ended up being just the perfect amount of time for us.
The sanctuary currently provides refuge for 52 birds: 50 parrots, 1 canary and 1 very aggressive crown crane.
The venue itself is very mellow and laid-back. Just what we needed on this day. You will not find formality here, this is not a museum or a field trip. It is an education center of sorts. If you ask the staff (and volunteers) questions, they will provide you with a plethora of knowledge. If you choose to keep to yourself and walk amongst the birds, you will be left to yourself. I guess you could say…that your visit can be as educational as you want it to be.
We found several visitors walking around quietly chatting with the birds. For us…we wanted a bit of both. The kids eagerly asked for help from the volunteers, so that they could be a human perch for these feathered friends.
I chatted with the staff to learn more about these exotic companion birds.
The kids took plenty of time, talking to the birds and getting them to repeat their words back to them and taking a ton of photos. I watched one lady sing, and the bird repeated her. I watched another woman dance and another bird started bobbing around. We even witnessed someone playing ring tones on their cell phone, as a bird mimicked the sounds.
The koi pond was pretty…but the real draw for us where the birds. I am always fascinated by exotic animals (last year we visited the Saint Francis Wolf Sanctuary in Montgomery, Texas). It is especially intriguing to learn how domestication affects these creatures.
We learned that many exotic birds live much longer than estimated. Did you know that a macaw can live up to seventy years? The week before we visited, Free Flight celebrated the 69th birthday of their oldest resident bird! Crazy, right? What a reminder for those that are considering a bird for a pet. When choosing a pet for your child, are we willing to care for that bird for another twenty years, after our kids graduate high school?
It was also interesting to hear why these birds become frustrated and aggressive with their human companions when they reach full maturity. Just like people, birds need to be equally yoked!
We were truly surprised by this small refuge. It was such an interesting visit and my crew totally recommends a visit if you have any interest in birds or photography! My daughter Lexi took some amazing photos during our visit to add to her portfolio.
Visiting Free Flight
If you are in the area, here are my thoughts on planning a visit:
- Check online before visiting, as their business hours are shorter than other venues. You can visit their website HERE.
- This is a small place, but it is wheelchair and stroller accessible.
- There is NO restroom, I repeat…NONE. Plan accordingly.
- I highly recommend wearing long sleeve shirts. My kids were scouring the truck for flannels, so they could perch the birds on their arms without getting scratched.
- Bring a good camera.
- The cost is $7 per adult and $3 per kid.
- I personally would not bring very small children here. The birds get extremely loud when they all start to squawk at the same time and it may be a bit overwhelming for littles.
- There is not a lot of parking, but as there was a slow stream of visitors…I had no problem parking my dually (crazy big truck) in their small lot.
What about you? Have you been to any place like this? Please let me know if you have a suggestion for us in our future travels!