THE BIRDS OF PARADISE

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Maryland baseball fans headed to Florida over the next couple of weeks to see the Orioles in action might want to check out the other birds in the area. No, not the St. Louis Cardinals.

About 20 miles north of Fort Lauderdale Stadium, where the Orioles roost for spring training, visitors can find purple gallinules, pied-billed grebes and more than 100 other species of birds at two somewhat unlikely tourist destinations.

Every day, Palm Beach County Water Utilities Department pumps millions of gallons of reclaimed wastewater into two man-made ecosystems: Wakodahatchee Wetlands in suburban Delray Beach and Green Cay Wetlands in suburban Boynton Beach. These sites have become an oasis for wildlife among the tract-home sprawl of southern Florida.

At Wakodahatchee (Seminole for "created waters"), a 3 / 4 -mile boardwalk winds through different wetland zones, allowing visitors to watch a variety of birds from close range. Anhingas and great blue herons nest on the habitat islands just off the boardwalk.

The nearby Green Cay Wetlands features 100 acres of wetland habitat traversed with a 1.5-mile boardwalk. An interpretive nature center has interactive exhibits and programs for the whole family.

Admission to both sites is free.

IF YOU GO

Green Cay Wetlands and Nature Center

Address:

12800 Hagen Ranch Road, Boynton Beach, Fla.

Phone:

561-966-7000

Hours:

The wetlands boardwalk is open to the public from sunrise to sunset, seven days a week. The nature center's hours are 1 p.m.-4:30 p.m. Tuesdays-Fridays, 8:15 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Saturdays and 1 p.m.-4:30 p.m. Sundays.

Admission:

Free

Wakodahatchee Wetlands

Address:

Located on the east side of Jog Road between Woolbright Road and Atlantic Avenue, Delray Beach, Fla.

Phone:

Call 561-493-6000 to reserve space on a guided tour offered at 9 a.m. on the second Tuesday of every month.

Hours:

The wetlands are open to the public from sunrise to sunset seven days a week.

Admission:

Free

ONLINE See a photo gallery of Florida's exotic birds at baltimoresun.com / birds

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