Posted On: July 5, 2022

New bird habitat exhibit coming to the Marine Science Center

Bird lovers and their fine feathered avian friends have reason to cheer the Marine Science Center’s plans for a new raptor education and conservation exhibit.

With the Volusia County Council’s approval Tuesday morning, a new bird habitat at the popular environmental learning center in Ponce Inlet that has hosted more than a million visitors since opening in 2002 is ready to take flight. The council unanimously approved a contract to build a new 650-square-foot exhibit that will be home to six of the center’s raptor ambassadors – birds being cared for at the facility, but aren’t suitable for release because of injury.

In addition to being a popular attraction that showcases marine life and environmental awareness, the Marine Science Center, or MSC, also serves as a working rehabilitation hospital for shorebirds and sea turtles. The center’s seabird rehab facility has treated more than 19,000 birds.

Planned to go adjacent to the elevated boardwalk and immediately west of the Marine Science Center’s main building, the new bird exhibit will include a covered, pedestrian viewing area with features such as educational signage and interactive touch-screen information stations to enhance the visitor experience. The idea is to make the bird encounters entertaining, engaging and educational for the public while spreading a message of habitat protection and conservation.

“Staff at the MSC continues to focus on improving educational opportunities to teach the public about Volusia County’s conservation efforts and how visitors can take these messages home and help lessen human impacts in their area,” officials wrote in a grant application to the county’s ECHO program that helps finance environmental, cultural, historic and outdoor recreation facilities. The new bird habitat is being funded by an ECHO grant and a $125,000 donation from the nonprofit Friends of the Marine Science Center.

The new exhibit also will help birds in another profound way. The new structure will replace raptor exhibits currently located across the parking lot from the Marine Science Center’s main exhibit gallery. The current exhibit area will be repurposed to expand the center’s space devoted to injured birds that are being treated and going through the rehabilitation and healing process while being prepared for release. On the average, the Marine Science Center admits more than 1,100 birds every year for rehabilitation.

The $330,000 contract to build the new bird exhibit was awarded to Paul Culver Construction Inc. of Daytona Beach. The project is expected to take approximately nine months to complete.