A Haven for Nature’s Superheroes
The National Aviary in Pittsburgh is the largest and only independent indoor nonprofit aviary in the United States. This avian paradise is home to over 500 birds, representing more than 150 species from around the world. As a member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), the National Aviary is dedicated to conservation, education, and providing a truly immersive experience for visitors. In this article, we will take a closer look at the location, features, bird species, history, and recent developments of this remarkable institution.
Location and Features
Situated at 700 Arch Street on Pittsburgh’s Northside, within the Allegheny Commons West Park, the National Aviary offers visitors a captivating experience surrounded by the beauty of nature. The aviary is open daily, except on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, and Christmas, welcoming over 100,000 visitors annually. With its expansive indoor space, visitors have the opportunity to witness both vegetarian and carnivorous bird feedings, enhancing their understanding of avian behavior and diet. The National Aviary also provides daily interactive experiences, including penguin feedings at Penguin Point, where visitors can observe African Penguins in their underwater habitat. The aviary’s commitment to creating an immersive experience is further demonstrated through expert talks, flight demonstrations, and encounters that allow visitors to connect with these feathered wonders.
In addition to the indoor exhibits, the National Aviary underwent an $18.5 million expansion and renovation project in 2010, resulting in the opening of a new cafe, classrooms, and the Helen M. Schmidt FliteZone Theater. This theater, the first of its kind in the nation, offers visitors the opportunity to witness captivating bird shows in an indoor setting. Moreover, the aviary introduced outdoor shows from its Sky Deck, providing a unique vantage point for live flight demonstrations featuring eagles, falcons, and kites soaring over West Park. These additions have significantly enhanced the visitor experience, making the National Aviary a must-visit destination for bird enthusiasts and nature lovers alike.
Birds: Nature’s Superheroes
The true stars of the National Aviary are its diverse collection of birds. With over 150 species, including many that are threatened or endangered in the wild, this aviary boasts one of the most extensive and varied bird collections in North America. Among the avian celebrities that call the National Aviary home are Benito and Sapphira, two stunning Hyacinth Macaws residing in the Tropical Rainforest habitat. These vibrant parrots capture the hearts of visitors with their striking blue feathers and engaging personalities.
Another popular resident is Wookiee, a Two-toed Sloth, also found in the Tropical Rainforest habitat. Known for their slow and deliberate movements, sloths have captivated people’s imaginations with their seemingly laid-back lifestyle. At the National Aviary, visitors have the opportunity to witness a Sloth Birthday Celebration, a unique event that honors these fascinating creatures.
In addition to these remarkable species, the National Aviary is actively involved in breeding programs and conservation efforts for various endangered birds. For example, the aviary participates in the Species Survival Plans, which aim to enhance the conservation of species such as the critically endangered Bali Myna and the African Penguin. These efforts have resulted in successful breeding and the hatching of African Penguin chicks, contributing to the conservation of this endangered species. The National Aviary’s commitment to conservation extends to the Guam Rail, previously considered extinct in the wild, which is now classified as critically endangered. The aviary’s successful breeding program has played a vital role in the preservation of this species, with more Guam Rails hatched at the National Aviary than any other North American zoo.
History and Funding
The National Aviary has a rich history that began with the Pittsburgh Aviary-Conservatory, established by the city in 1952 on the site of the former North Side Conservatory. Over the years, the aviary expanded, and in 1991, due to a decline in urban tax base, the city ceased its funding, leading to the formation of Save the Aviary, Inc. by neighborhood leaders. This nonprofit organization took over the facility, securing funding and developing plans to privatize and revitalize the aviary. With the appointment of dedicated individuals such as Jill Sims and Mark P. Masterson, Save the Aviary, Inc. successfully transitioned the aviary into an independent institution, leading to its designation as the National Aviary in Pittsburgh by the U.S. Congress in 1993.
Since then, the National Aviary has continued to evolve and grow, thanks to the unwavering support of its dedicated staff, board members, and generous donors. The aviary has undertaken several capital campaigns, resulting in significant expansions and renovations, including the addition of the Helen M. Schmidt FliteZone Theater and the construction of Condor Court and the Tropical Rainforest renovation. These developments have elevated the aviary’s status as a premier destination for bird enthusiasts and conservationists.
Under the leadership of Cheryl Tracy, who assumed the role of Executive Director in 2013, the National Aviary has embarked on ambitious projects and initiatives. Tracy’s tenure has seen the successful completion of the “Taking Flight” campaign, which included the creation of the Penguin Point habitat for endangered African Penguins. Additionally, the aviary introduced the SkyDeck, a rooftop show presented by the Pittsburgh International Airport, where visitors can witness the awe-inspiring flight of a Black Kite. The aviary has been relentless in its pursuit of innovation and improvement, evident in the recent addition of The Garden Room, a year-round event and education venue.
The National Aviary’s commitment to conservation extends beyond its borders. Through its participation in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Saving Animals From Extinction (SAFE) program, the aviary is actively engaged in saving the African Penguin from the brink of extinction. Working alongside independent Senior Conservation Scientist, Dr. Patty McGill, the National Aviary is leading the charge in preserving this iconic species.
Make your plans at the National Aviary on their website right here!
The National Aviary in Pittsburgh is a haven for nature’s superheroes – birds. With its diverse collection of species, commitment to conservation, and dedication to providing an immersive visitor experience, this aviary stands as a testament to the wonder and beauty of avian life. Whether witnessing the majesty of a Bald Eagle in flight, celebrating the birthdays of Linnaeus’s Two-toed Sloths, or learning about the important conservation efforts being undertaken, a visit to the National Aviary is sure to leave visitors with a deeper appreciation for our feathered friends and the natural world. Plan your visit today and embark on a journey into the extraordinary world of birds.