Get Closer: National Aviary Features Seasonal Events to Educate and Entertain
At the National Aviary in Pittsburgh, conservation isn’t just for the birds.
Located in the North Side region of Pittsburgh, the National Aviary is a destination for families and visitors worldwide, offering unparalleled opportunities to get close to beautiful, rare and fascinating species from every continent but Antarctica.
People may flock to the National Aviary for the flamingos, parrots and owls, but it is also home to threatened and endangered birds, and the work of conservationists at the National Aviary is quietly paving the way for many species’ survival. For example, the Guam Rail, once extinct in the wild due to the arrival of an invasive species that decimated all but 21 of the birds, has made a comeback, establishing small populations that include many birds that hatched right here in Pittsburgh. In 2019, the Guam Rail was promoted from “extinct in the wild” to “critically endangered,” due in large part to the National Aviary’s efforts.
More than 500 birds representing over 150 species live at the National Aviary, including many that are threatened, endangered or even extinct in the wild. To save these birds and protect their natural habitats, experts like Dr. Steven Latta, the National Aviary’s Director of Conservation and Field Research, conduct research both in Pittsburgh and around the world, in places like Ecuador, the Mariana Islands and South Africa. The National Aviary’s research is internationally renowned for helping advance scientists’ understanding of bird behavior, migration patterns and the ways bird species respond to changes in their environments.
As an accredited Association of Zoos & Aquariums institution, the National Aviary works with more than 80 species with Species Survival Plans, or SSPs. These SSPs help animals in human care maintain healthy, diverse genetic lines, and play an important role in helping threatened and endangered populations rebound and recover. A Species Survival Plan helped the Guam Rail recover and establish wild populations on islands near Guam. Nearly 40 birds hatched at the National Aviary are now thriving in the wild—more than any other U.S. zoo!
But you don’t have to be a scientist (or a bird) to enjoy the National Aviary. For the public, the National Aviary offers seasonally themed displays, events and educational opportunities designed to engage all ages in conservation efforts. To kick off 2020, visitors can “Escape to the Islands,” stepping out of the snow and into a tropical oasis, complete with palm trees, lush plants and postcard-worthy backdrops.
As part of this immersive experience, visitors can also get close to and learn more about island birds. For example, in the habitat area called Canary’s Call, presented by Dollar Bank, visitors may see Malayan Flying Foxes—also known as mega-bats—fully stretch out their wings to their nearly five-foot wingspan. Nearby, the National Aviary’s Victoria Crowned Pigeons regularly embark on a Royal Stroll-appropriate for the world’s largest pigeon species-before returning to their permanent home in the Tropical Rainforest area. Visitors who observe this pigeon promenade can get within inches of this fascinating bird. At Penguin Point, the National Aviary is helping to rehabilitate the population of African Penguins, an endangered species.
In addition to featured activities, the National Aviary offers immersive walk-through habitats, where birds fly freely in natural settings. Visitors are able to see flamingos in the Wetlands, vibrant tropical birds like macaws in the Tropical Rainforest and threatened Andean Condors in their very own Condor Court. Animal lovers who want to get even closer can book one of the National Aviary’s signature experiences, including Owl Encounters, Sloth Lovers Experiences and the opportunity to become Trainer for a Day. In addition to allowing visitors to interact quite closely with these rare birds, proceeds from signature experiences support the care and feeding of the National Aviary’s flock. In daily encounters like the Flamingo Trek, participants walk across the Wetlands beach to hand-feed the National Aviary’s flock of flamingos.
Ready to fly high and soar like a bird? The National Aviary is open daily from 10am to 5pm and is located on Pittsburgh’s historic North Side, in Allegheny Commons Park. Children under 2 are admitted free of charge, and members pay a one-time fee for unlimited visits throughout the year. Learn more at www.aviary.org.