This week´s been full of contacts with nature for me. First, the Jellyfish Exposition at L´Oceanografic Valencia with its peace of the sea, and now the colorful magic of Jardin del Papagayo in Benicarlo: from all the shades of blue to all the colors of the rainbow.

Pin for Jardin del Papagayo blog post by At Lifestyle Crossroads

Visiting Jardin del Papagayo in Benicarlo

Bird Lovers – This is your day!

Jardin del Papagayo was such a unique experience that it ended making its way to my Top 10 Places to Visit in The Province of Castellon. It can be visited as a day trip from Valencia (1h30min), Tarragona (1h 20min), or Castellon(50 min).

By the way, the city of Benicarlo is famous in Spain as an Artichokes region and hosts the Gastronomic week of Artichokes every year (from the end of January till the beginning of March). So you could really kill two birds with one shot here and add a gastronomic twist to your trip.

Before we start, I should really admit that I was having a hard time choosing the best pictures for this post to share with you. All the birds were simply stunning and if I am to publish it all – I should probably switch the main topic of my blog to the birdlife. Nevertheless, I´ve handpicked a few of my personal favorites – hope they´ll bring up in you this little splash of colors we all need every once in a while.

About Jardin del Papagayo

To start with, it all changed for me after watching a heart-breaking documentary Earthlings (2005). As a child, I used to visit zoos with my parents and I´ve never really thought of the other side of this animal life behind the bars. Ever since I try to make more ethical choices, although with kids it gets tricky at times. You can´t always take them to a sanctuary or safari, while you still want them to get a glimpse of the animal world. So I was not entirely sure about Jardin del Papagayo at first. I mean, birds are not elephants or tigers, many of them live with humans and literally become family members. Nevertheless, I was still a bit concerned.

People chasing animals to take pictures or feed them is a sadly common thing, but can you imagine a place where animals chase tourists? – Well, this is probably the reason why El Jardin del Papagayo in the Spanish city of Benicarlo was so different from anything I´ve ever experienced. I expected to discover the diversity of birds world, but my plans were turned upside down.

Also Read: The Most Colorful Villages in Spain

Since my very first minute at Jardin del Papagayo I felt like the birds were having a blast. It honestly took me a while to adjust, as I was initially aiming for a bird-watching experience. I like animals, but having 10 birds on my head and shoulders from minute 1 was a bit of a shock for me. I was not ready to be the “Pigeon Lady” from Home Alone 2 (unlike my husband though).

At the entrance we were offered to buy some pipes to feed the birds and I was like: “No, thanks! I´m just here to watch”. But after a random bird shamelessly jumped on my shoulder and gave me this “where-is-my-food” look – I went back for the pipes.

Birds that chase people

As one of the local guides explained to us: the birds of Jardin del Papagayo are all grown up with people and used to interact with staff and visitors of Jardin del Papagayo a lot. So, not only these birds aren´t afraid of people, they love being around humans, expect and adore their attention.

Feeding and playing with birds at Jardin del Papagayo in Benicarlo, Spain
Feeding birds at Jardin del Papagayo

I´ve honestly never had direct contact with a parrot before, I mean I´ve seen parrots, but never played with one. Therefore I never realized these birds were so smart. From their eyes you could literally read their emotions. Some of them were making sounds to bring our attention or to express their joy or irritation with each other, while others were clearly posing for me, while I was taking pictures. Can you believe it?!

Colorful Birds at Jardin del Papagayo in Benicarlo, Spain
Rainbow Lorikeet
Sun Conures at Jardin del Papagayo in Benicarlo, Spain
Sun conure

Birds with Personality: Macaws

The stars of Jardin del Papagayo were definitely the macaws. I never realized how much these birds enjoy climbing, much more than flying actually. They are known as the giants of the parrot world, having long tail feathers as well as big beaks. Their large, curved beaks are quite powerful and are designed to crack open hard nuts and seeds. But you could see on the pictures how they use it as a climbing tool. Macaws are native to the southern part of North America (Mexico), Central America and South America. Everything about them is big and colorful, however, their personalities are surprisingly soft, friendly and sensitive. 

Also read: Must-See Magical Forests in Spain

Blue and gold macaws in the wild are monogamous, meaning they mate for life. And they can live from 30 to 50 years. Macaws are quite playful, however, even from brief contact with them, you could notice they are very very intelligent birds. Macaws can be taught to talk and they might also be inclined to whistle or to imitate sounds and noises they hear inside and outside.

Scarlet Macaw and Blue-and-yellow macaw at Jardin del Papagayo in Benicarlo, Spain
Scarlet Macaw and Blue-and-yellow macaw

Breaking the ice and picking favorites

This blue-and-yellow macaw was particularly playful. At first, I was a bit scared, cause I saw it was clearly trying to bite me. Once the bird noticed I was afraid, it´s immediately switched to my husband and kept a distance from me: limiting our interaction to simply taking the pipes from me every once in a while.

However, with my husband the macaw was really having fun. He would just approach his hand with pipes and the bird would climb all the way up to his shoulder. After a while, I realized this macaw enjoyed making us both laugh.

Playful and funny macaw at Jardin del Papagayo in Benicarlo, Spain
My husband will kill me for sharing it, but this is just to show you how friendly the birds were to him

With this beak, it could actually do some real harm to anyone, but instead, the bird was seating on my husbands´ shoulder all the time, playfully biting his ear, nose, or beard, which was more of a tickling thing. I haven´t laughed so hard in a long time. And yet I couldn´t believe it: the macaws immediately identified me as “the least fun of the group” and if it wouldn´t be for the pipes, they’d probably ignored me at all. On the other hand, my husband was their absolute favorite.

Even though not all of the birds were ready to sit on his shoulder (and here you´d clearly notice their different personalities) they were openly preferring his company. Food was the least important factor in their actions.

Colorful Birds at Jardin del Papagayo in Benicarlo, Spain
Colorful Birds at Jardin del Papagayo in Benicarlo, Spain
Military Macau at Jardin del Papagayo in Benicarlo, Spain
Two sun conures at Jardin del Papagayo in Benicarlo, Spain
Colorful Birds at Jardin del Papagayo in Benicarlo, Spain

How much time do you need?

When you google the place, it shows you people typically spend 3 h inside the park. Which I thought in our case would be narrowed down to 1,5 h maximum. But guess what ?! – We´ve spent 4,5 h. It was hard to leave such a lovely company. I can´t wait to visit again with my kids. I assume bird lovers can spend a whole day at Jardin del Papagayo.

Seeing birds is often more or less the same, but interacting with them depends on so many factors that it´s a whole new experience every time. Getting a glimpse of how the macaws reveal their mood and show off their personalities was so eye-opening for me. I will never look at any bird in the same way I used to.

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Pin with 4 birds about Jardin del Papagayo in Benicarlo, Spain

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This post is linked up with The Weekly Postcard and Feet Do Travel