Best Place To Make Fine-Feathered Friends - 1999
Good ol' Edgar. He's always there for us, perched on a railing. He's just one of the 43 species that inhabit the aviary for injured birds at Flamingo Gardens. When it first opened, in 1991, Edgar was the first tenant; now he's the welcoming party. But you have to get the conversation going. Michael Ruggieri, director of animals, says that fish crows like Edgar are born mimics. Repeat something a few times, and they'll respond. We've heard Edgar utter "hi," but he also says "hello," "what ya' doin'" and "good morning." His fellow tenants, which include 14 species of wading birds, have it pretty good: They live rent-free in a place divided into five South Florida ecosystems, and their healthy offspring are taught to hunt, then let loose in the wild. Visitors have it good, too. Aside from the aviary, Flamingo Gardens offers gardens, a mini zoo, and fruit, including the tangelo, a hybrid of tangerine and grapefruit invented by Floyd Wray, who started the operation with his wife, Jane, in 1925. When Jane passed away, her will set aside 60 acres for preservation, and the not-for-profit Flamingo Gardens has remained faithful, hosting 30,000 schoolkids and 100,000 visitors every year. That's a lot of hellos, but Edgar's happy to oblige.