Free Flight Detroit Zoo Wildlife Interpretive Gallery

In the Matilda Wilson Free-Flight Aviary, over 30 species of birds are free to fly, walk, or swim among the cover of lush tropical plants in a warm and inviting climate. Viewing birds in this habitat is a lot like bird watching in the field; you need to be patient and will sometimes only catch a glimpse of the birds. Take your time and walk slowly along the meandering path and look around in all directions, especially up. Birds may be high overhead or hidden among the plants just inches away from you.

The boldest birds share the pathway with visitors while some will only be seen by those with the patience of a seasoned bird watcher. The Free-Flight Aviary is a great spot at the Zoo during the winter when visitors can get a break from the cold weather and find a comfortable area, quietly settle in, and listen to the sounds of the birds as they call to each other. Since the birds are free to go anywhere in the habitat and are often secretive, you will likely see different species on each visit to the Zoo.

The most obvious pair of birds to be seen are the green-winged macaws. Some of the other species that can be easily seen are scarlet ibis and bleeding heart doves, named after the red spot of feathers on their chests. But if you look more closely in the tree, you may see a boat-billed heron looking for fish or a tanager feeding on fruit. Masked lovebirds can be heard calling, Pekin robins will dart at eye level looking for insects, and pygmy geese swim in the stream.

Because of the birds’ secretive behavior, the keeper staff uses treats to bring the birds close for observation and censusing. These sessions occur during public hours and are accompanied with a description of the birds’ identification and their behaviors. If you happen to be present when these activities take place feel free to ask questions of the staff; they are always happy to help you enjoy your Zoo experience.

Take your time in the Free-Flight Aviary and you will be surprised at what you will see.