It all starts with a parade on the streets of Carcassonne, or rather in the sky up above.
Strange birds can be seen wheeling in the air, transfixing the astonished passers-by down below before swooping magestically to land on the leather glove worn by a character who looks like he has walked straight out of the Middle Ages.
Rest assured, you are still in the 21st Century, and this little taster in the streets of Carcassonne serves as an invitation from the trainers and their birds to the show they put on at the Cité des Oiseaux.
On accepting, the soon-to-be members of the audience are taken in a little train to the heights of the Colline de Pech Mary, home of the Cité des Oiseaux.
No sooner have they arrived than visitors find themselves with a fine view at the heart of a space surrounded by plants and rocks, an ideal location to provide different birds with varied environments depending on what best suits them.
Fear not, the participants in the show are real professionals, and pull off some stunning acrobatics, pirouettes and nose-dives... These moves are made with disconcerting ease by Griffon vultures, white storks, eagles from America, marabou from Africa and kookaburra from Australia.
While these feathered stars execute their tricks above your heads, their trainers tell you all about them, describing their characteristics and listing their filmographies.
These birds literally are pros, many of them having starred in films directed by the highly regarded French film maker Pierre Cadéac, who has 25 years of experience in animal training.
As the show comes to an end, the birds come to the audience for applause, landing on heads and shoulders and, indeed, upon any improvised human perch available, before returning to their cages, where visitors can follow the signed directions through the aviary and admire all the species once more.
If birds of prey aren't enough, you may be interested to learn that in 2006 the owners of the site decided to let wolves into the pen, or rather aviary!
Once more, everything is planned, and visitors can relax and enjoy the chance to observe these animals, impressive on so many different levels.
La Cité des Oiseaux et les Loups à Carcassonne
Colline de Pech Mary - 11000 Carcassonne, France.
Tel.: +33 (0)4 68 47 88 99.
Open from 1st April to 30th June and from 1st to 30th September from 2:00pm to 6:00pm (except Friday).
Bird show: daily (except Fridays) at 3:30pm, and at 3:30pm and 5:00pm on Sundays and national holidays.
July and August: open daily from 10:30am to 12:00pm and from 2:30pm to 6:30pm.
Bird show: 11:00am, 3:30pm, 5:00pm.