Site Seen: Free Flight Aviary

    At 6:30 p.m. every Friday night, several dozen UCSD students aren’t hitting the books, the town or their Nintendo Wii – in fact, two of those things are arguably forbidden to them for at least another day. From sundown on Friday until the “”first three stars”” in Saturday’s evening sky, according to Rabbi Lisa Goldstein, the practicing Jewish students of UCSD’s chapter of Hillel San Diego observe the Shabbat: their holy day of rest.

    Photos by Erik Jepsen/Guardian

    There’s something positively different about Free Flight Aviary. The majority of its birds are not caged in by metal bars. At Free Flight, even though some of the smaller birds are caged for their protection, most of the exotic birds are free to do as they please. Indeed, parrots squawk greetings to guests and macaws flutter their wings in a barrier-free milieu. Each cage-free bird sits on its own individual bare tree branch, and is free to move about within the Free Flight premises.

    Visitors are unrestrained in their Free Flight experience as well. Every guest is treated to a highly personalized interaction with exotic birds. Petting and cuddling is encouraged, but be careful to stay away from birds perched in the “”Biting Section.”” The fun does not stop there; visitors are allowed to invite birds to perch on their hands or arms. Do not be afraid if an avian friend refuses to settle on you – amiable and understanding staff members are nearby to assist in bird handling (bird feed can also be purchased).

    The aviary’s facilities emulate a tropical environment – palm trees and other foliage surround the birds. The landscape is dotted with a wide array of birds that vary in hue and size. In the background, a small waterfall flows into a still pond where orange, white and black Japanese Koi swim underneath lily pads. At the center of the avian paradise, two lush trees emerge and extend high above the exotic birds. Natural rocks line the brown, sandy path guiding guests to each bird. Free Flight’s roofless construction heightens the realistic nature of the aviary; on a clear day, sun bathes every bird and visitor.

    Photos by Erik Jepsen/Guardian

    Free Flight is nestled right next to the Del Mar Fairgrounds, isolated from the hustle and bustle of popular tourist attractions like the San Diego Zoo. Fortunately, the aviary is small in size, so finding and identifying birds does not require a confusing map. Even more comforting is the student-friendly admission price of $5.

    At the end of your visit you may feel inclined to take a bird home with you. Luckily, Free Flight allows you to do just that, but be prepared to bring your credit card. Your new pet could cost anywhere from a few hundred to a thousand dollars.

    Free Flight Aviary

    2132 Jimmy Durante Boulevard

    Del Mar, CA 92014

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