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The birds are back: Omaha zoo's aviary reopens

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The sun is in the sky, and birds are flying high at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium.

The more than 250 birds off exhibit during the renovation of the Lee G. Simmons Aviary are ready to take flight in their revamped, environmentally conscious exhibit, which reopened to the public at 9 a.m. Friday.

Visitors walking along the exhibit’s 375-foot elevated walkway will be stepping on eco-friendly decking made from recycled materials. The cable railings they hold onto were designed to provide a more open view of birds, especially for young children in strollers.

Among the upgrades and new educational material is the addition of a flamingo habitat.

A 500-square-foot viewing blind allows a wide view into the pink-feathered bird’s habitat. The space also includes a 9,000-gallon mud bottom pond.

Thirty-four flamingos will stay in the exhibit year-round, and zoo officials hope that the new habitat will encourage breeding among the birds.

The flamingos are likely oblivious to the significance of their new home — the completion of the aviary project marks the end of an era at the zoo.

As Dennis Pate, CEO and executive director of the zoo, explained earlier this month, the aviary was the final project to be completed in the zoo’s 11-year master plan.

The zoo has been transformed “into a predominately immersive experience,” Pate said Thursday in a press release.

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Details of what’s next for the zoo haven’t been finalized, but speaking broadly, Pate said earlier this month that the Desert Dome Plaza is due for a transformation — same for the old cat complex, which no longer houses large cats.

There’s also the Hubbard Gorilla Valley, which is not far from reopening. That exhibit is being completed outside of the master plan and is set to reopen Aug. 6 with more climbing space and larger living spaces., 402-444-1067


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Jessica Wade covers breaking news, crime and the Omaha zoo. Follow her on Twitter @Jess_Wade_OWH. Phone: 402-444-1067

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