A painted lady butterfly, one of the residents of the...

A painted lady butterfly, one of the residents of the Butterfly Vivarium at Sweetbriar Nature Center in Smithtown.  Credit: Ian Stark

The annual Butterfly and Bird Festival, a day filled with wildlife encounters, food trucks and musical performances, is returning to Sweetbriar Nature Center in Smithtown on June 10. 

The event is in celebration of the seasonal opening of the center's Butterfly Vivarium, a large enclosure where butterflies are free to flutter by while visitors get an up-close look at how these insects interact in a natural environment. Janine Bendicksen, director of Wildlife Rehabilitation at Sweetbriar, says the opening of the vivarium brings many new families to the center. "It's such a great introduction to what we do here," she says.

This year's festival will feature a musical performance by Native American dancers and singers from the Shinnecock Nation. "This is the first time the Shinnecock tribe will perform at our event. Native Americans represent much of what we teach here at Sweetbriar, [that] we must respect our planet and learn to coexist with the animals that we share this world with,” says Bendicksen.

Check out some of the animals you can meet and all the fun things to do at this year's festival:


WHEN | WHERE 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. June 10; 62 Eckernkamp Dr., Smithtown

COST $25 per car; entrance into the vivarium is an added $7 per person, children ages 12 and under receive a coupon to enter for no additional fee.

INFO 631-979-6344, sweetbriarnc.org


The interior of the Butterfly Vivarium at Sweetbriar Nature Center...

The interior of the Butterfly Vivarium at Sweetbriar Nature Center in Smithtown.  Credit: Ian Stark

Walk through the vivarium where you can see butterflies such as monarchs and painted ladies. Occasionally, one may land on a lucky explorer. Visitors can also spot exotic butterflies, like swallowtails and zebra longwings, and see several plants and colorful flowers.

Staffers will be on hand to help make sure the fragile creatures are safe while visitors tour the space. “Don’t touch, just enjoy,” Bendicksen notes. “Here, you get to see it up close, see how it eats, see its body parts … they’re really quite magical.”

Visitors can see resident birds like Aria the eagle owl, Nebula the barn owl, Turnip the screech owl, Lilly the great horned owl and Diego the American kestrel.  Franklin the American bald eagle, Ollie the osprey and many others are available to view in their enclosures.

Sweetbriar is also a home for injured wild animals in the area. The facility recently helped rehabilitate an injured coyote that was found wandering the streets in Queens and took in an escaped Eurasian lynx kept illegally as a pet before being caught roaming the streets of Central Islip. Guests will have the opportunity to meet other injured animals including a bald eagle, opossum, a fox and vultures.


The fun doesn't stop with animal encounters. In addition to the Shinnecock Nation performers, children’s entertainer Johnny Cuomo and steel drum musicians will be on hand. Attendees can also take a pony ride, see a raptor presentation and meet animals at the petting and feeding zoo. Several food trucks, such as All-American Wontons and Grill Boys, will be on-site. Vendors will also be selling nature-based crafts, art, jewelry and more.

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