The National Aviary located in Pittsburgh, PA is the largest aviary in the United States.

The National Aviary truly lives up to their mission statement, “Working to inspire respect for nature through an appreciation of birds.”  It is the only aviary that has earned the title “National” by declaration of the U.S. Congress on October 27, 1993. This independent, non-profit aviary, is home to over 500 birds representing 150 species from all over the world. Many of these birds are threatened or are endangered in their native habitats.

The National Aviary’s staff consists of conservationists and researchers dedicated to saving birds and protecting habitats. 

The National Aviary is truly a gem, as the minute you enter the building you are greeted by staff that is cheerful, helpful, and passionate about sharing their knowledge about the birds they feed and work with every day.

Through endangered bird breeding programs and educational programming, the National Aviary works to bring the amazing world of birds to a larger audience. The goal is to teach us the importance of being stewards of our planet and to protect all that depends on it for life.

Let us take you on a journey through The National Aviary.
The first stop is the Bald Eagle exhibit. 

The Bald Eagle is the largest and most recognizable bird in North America and has been the national bird of the United States since 1782.

According to the National Aviary, “Bald Eagles are one of the most well known conservation success stories in the world.  In the mid-20th century, Bald Eagle populations suffered a steep decline as a result of persecution, habitat loss, and the introduction of a pesticide called DDT.  Large predators, like Bald Eagles, ended up with high concentrations of DDT in their bodies, affecting the birds’ ability to lay eggs with properly formed shells. By 1978, it was estimated that 400 Bald Eagle pairs remained in the continental U.S.  Under the protection of the Endangered Species Act, and with reintroduction efforts and the ban of the use of DDT, Bald Eagle populations recovered. In 2007, the Bald Eagle was officially removed from the federal Endangered Species list, though it remains threatened in Pennsylvania.

Bald Eagles
Bald Eagles

During our visit, the majestic Bald Eagles were very interactive, twisting their heads in a rotating direction while their eyes remained transfixed on their subject of interest.  Steller’s Sea-Eagle, translates to “eagle of the open seas,” (pictured above) was very shy and resting in her perch a distance away — what a joy just to catch a glimpse of this magnificent bird.



Next stop is the Penguin Exhibit

Did you know that penguins spend 75% of their day in water searching for fish? Island habitats offer penguins easy access to resource-rich feeding waters.  Islands also provide penguins with habitats free from predators and human disturbance. The National Aviary is working to help save African penguins whose population decreased in the early 1990’s by as much as 90%.

Penguins are very attentive and devotional as they form long-term relationships with their mates and can identify one another through their calls.  They are also proactive in raising their chicks together.

Behind the glass, you can clearly experience how social, cute, and funny these penguins truly are.  We had several pose for us as we took their pictures — truly an entertaining experience.

Hugging Penguins
Playing Penguins
Now into The Wetlands 

The Wetlands room hosts several species of birds that are pretty colorful, noisy, and playful. This walk-through area provides birds freedom of flight; you never know where they are going to land and strike a pose.

Bird species includes American Flamingos, Brown Pelicans, Blue Crowned Motmot (also known as clock birds as they are known for swinging their tails back and forth like a pendulum), critically endangered Bali Myna (Bali), Black Faced Ibis (South America), Falcated Ducks (North America, British Columbia), and the largest species in the Toucan family, the Toco Toucan (South America).

The next stop: the Rainforest

The Rainforest felt humid and was abundant in typical rainforest plants, trees, vines, a stream, and waterfalls.

The rainforest hosts several birds such as the Victoria Crowned Pigeon (Australasian), named after the British monarch, Queen Victoria.  There were several of them perched in trees with hanging vines.

Perched closely with their mates were a couple of Hyacinth Macaw’s (South America).  Known for their intelligence and being social, they have earned the nickname “Gentle Giants.”  

Fun fact:  Hyacinth Macaw’s beaks are so strong that they can break open coconuts. 

Our last stop was the Canary’s Call

This area is a museum approach to an indoor habitat featuring thought-provoking quotes, pictures, and interactive elements that address the effects of pollution, invasive plant species, overconsumption, and the resulting habitat loss of our entire ecosystems around the world.

According to the Aviary, “The Canary is a biological indicator for the health of the ecosystem.”

Canary birds are extremely sensitive creatures and were used as an early warning signal for toxic gases in coal mines. Sick birds indicated poor air quality and alerted miners that they needed to get out of the mine or use a respirator.


The Atlantic Canary’s decorative yellow coloring (wild canaries are green, yellow, and streaked birds), cheerful demeanor, and song have evolved over centuries.

Changes in the function, health, or population of these indicator species can reveal such things as the accumulation of pollutants, changes in overall air quality, and the threat of rising ocean temperatures.”


Yellow Canary
We learned so much during our visit to the National Aviary.

If you are interested in learning more about birds, take a look at the virtual programs offered as well as opportunities to support aviaries through memberships, donations, volunteer work, adopt a bird, and corporate giving.  To learn more, we encourage you to visit their website at

We recommend the book, The Bird Way by Jennifer Ackerman. You can read our summary in the OPL Reads library.

OPL Naturalist Yvonne Dwyer

This experience was shared by OPL Naturalist Yvonne Dwyer.

Learn more about Yvonne.

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