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Arctic visitors, free-flying birds, and five concerts at Denver's Zoo.

Two years in the building, the Denver Zoo's Northern Shores exhibit is well worth the wait. The 3-1/2-acre gallery of arctic animals-from polar bears to snowy owls-is the first of its kind in the Rockies. Built at a cost of some $4.3 million, Northern Shores re-creates the animals' natural habitats.

Now is a good time to visit: the animals have had time to adjust to their new surroundings and are lively and active. Even if you're just passing through Denver, it's worth scheduling a quick stop at the zoo. It's just 10 minutes from Stapleton airport. Best time to visit is in the morning, when animals are most active.

Summer also brings the Zoofest concert series, featuring jazz, blues, and classical music (see schedule at right).

The two adult and four young polar bears are the main attractions at Northern Shores. One of the most dangerous animals (to man) in nature, here they seem playful as they dive off rocks and tussle with each other. An underwater viewing area in the young bears' pool lets you watch them swim; they use front paws only, in a dog-paddle style.

Nearby are two aloof-looking snowy owls. The female is the bigger of the pair, with a 5-1/2-foot wingspan. They're generally silent but will open their beaks and hiss when threatened. The arctic fox habitat is next door, but you have to get up early to catch sight of these three shy creatures (mostly nocturnal, they live in burrows). If you do see one, it will have gray-brown summer fur; this turns white in winter. The river otter, in a nearby exhibit, is playful and easy to spot as are the California sea lions in their big, rock-lined tank. At two times each day, you can watch a free show starring the trained sea lions. Around the corner are three sloeeyed harbor seals.

Also at the zoo: exotic birds, more animals, summer concerts

Bird World. It's sheer joy to walk into rooms filled with free-flying birds. In this unusual display, you walk through a cavelike entrance right into a rain forest. The birds don't escape because they're afraid to fly through the low, dark entrance. They're most active and chattery in the morning. Some of the standouts include the brilliant scarlet ibis, the wedge-headed hammerkop, and Lady Ross's turacou (with its scarlet flash of underwing color). Don't miss the adjacent hummingbird forest, with the bluenecked tanager, lesser green broadbill, and sparkling violet-eared hummingbird.

Other animal highlights. The zoo's herd of wild sheep native to the Rockies is also notable. You can watch Dall and bighorn sheep roam over the rockwork.

Home to the Himalayan or Asiatic black bear, the Bear Mountain habitat is undergoing restoration.

Concerts. Now in its third season, the Pepsi Zoofest Concert Series offers five events through August. Tickets cost $7, and all concerts begin at 7:30 p.m., except the final one, which starts at 7. Seating is on the grass you're welcome to bring a blanket and picnic. Gates open at 6:30; arrive early to get good spots. If rain cancels the show, the event moves to the next night.

Here are the events: June 29, Rob Mullins, keyboard. July 13, Hot Rise, bluegrass. July 27, Chris Daniels and the Kings with special guest David Bromberg, rock and roll and rhythm and blues. August 10, Chamber Blues, Corky Siegel and the Chicago String Consortium Quartet, classical. August 24, Spike Robinson and Wind Machine, acoustic jazz.

The zoo is in City Park, on 23rd Avenue between York Street and Colorado Boulevard. It's open from 10 to 6 daily; admission is $4, $2 ages 6 through 15 and 62 and over.
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Copyright 1988 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:Aug 1, 1988
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