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National Aviary
Girl and Starling.jpg
Date opened 1952; 1991 (went private)
Location Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA
Coordinates Coordinates: 40°27′12″N 80°00′36″W / 40.4533°N 80.01°W / 40.4533; -80.01
Number of animals 600+
Number of species 200
Memberships AZA

The National Aviary in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania is America's only independent indoor nonprofit aviary. It is also America's largest aviary, and the only accorded honorary "National" status by the United States Congress.


Location and features

The National Aviary is located in Pittsburgh's Northside, within Allegheny Commons West Park in Allegheny Center.

The National Aviary is open from 10 am to 5 pm every day of the year except December 25. Summer hours: The National Aviary opens at 9 am between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Although some of the birds must be fed in private, almost all feedings (both vegetarian and carnivorous) are scheduled and viewable by visitors. Since 1999, annual attendance has consistently topped 100,000.[1]

An African Penguin (Spheniscus demersus) at the Penguin Point exhibit

Recently, the National Aviary added a series of interactive encounters for visitors. Some of these include: Penguin Point, a new exhibit featuring 11 African penguins and unique underwater viewing, Penguin Connection, a private encounter with an African Penguin, Little Peepers, a program for preschoolers, FliteZone, a free-flight, outdoor bird show, and the bird-feeding adventure Lories & Friends. These programs are joined by various trainer talks, bird presentations, feedings and encounters that help to create an immersive experience for Aviary visitors.


The Aviary is home to 600+ birds of more than 200 species, many of which are threatened or endangered in the wild. This is one of the most diverse collections in North America (exceeding, for example, the esteemed National Zoo in DC [2], and Niagara Falls Aviary).

As a result, the Aviary has many species that are rarely found in other zoos or aviaries, for example: the Bare-necked Fruitcrows, Paradise Tanagers, White-tailed Trogon, Scarlet-headed Blackbird, Yellow-throated Laughing Thrush, Blue-winged Mountain Tanager, Pompadour Cotinga, blue-necked tanager, and Lesser Green Broadbill.[3]

Among the most popular residents are Benito the Hyacinth Macaw and his roommate Killer the Green-winged Macaw. Their spacious new room is the first exhibit on the right from the main entrance. Both are trained, and perform at occasional educational exhibitions. The Aviary has also had recent success in breeding;[1] its Spectacled Owls had their first chick named Franklin (after Benjamin Franklin), who hatched in September 2006. Franklin can be seen in one of the Aviary's exhibits.

The National Aviary also takes part in breeding programs designed to increase the numbers of endangered birds like the Bali Mynah (nearly extinct in the wild) and the Red-crowned Crane.[4] Some of these birds will eventually be reintroduced into the wild.

History and funding

The National Aviary began as part of the Pittsburgh Aviary-Conservatory, built by the City in 1952. Pittsburgh's dwindling urban tax base forced the city to cease funding the institution in 1991.

In 1991, neighborhood leaders founded Save The Aviary, Inc. and began an intense public campaign to raise money and develop a plan to privatize the Aviary. Jill Sims, an active volunteer at the Aviary, became the first chairperson of the organization. Mark P. Masterson, a Northside community leader, developed a business plan and secured funding from the Buhl Foundation to produce a capital improvement plan and recruited additional board members. Save The Aviary, Inc. took over the facility and began operations soon after the Board of Directors hired Dayton Baker as Executive Director.

In 1993, by declaration of the U.S. Congress, the Pittsburgh Aviary was designated honorary national status and renamed the National Aviary in Pittsburgh. A successful capital campaign was undertaken in 1995 to raise funds for essential renovations, completed in 1997, that thoroughly modernized the facility. In January 2005 the National Aviary created the Department of Conservation and Field Research, which so far has mainly focused on restoring bird populations in foreign countries with histories of extreme environmental degradation.

In July 2006, the Pennsylvania state government granted the first $500,000 toward a $22.5 million project that will include a new education center and expanded exhibits, slated for opening in 2008.[2] In October 2008, the Aviary announced a $23 million renovation and expansion of exhibition space, the vast majority of which would be paid for by private foundations.[3]

In early 2007, Dayton Baker announced his intention to step down once a replacement Executive Director was found. Linda Dickerson was named the new Director and took over the facility in April 2007.[4]

On January 22, 2009, in a letter to the board of directors, Ms. Dickerson announced her intention to resign from the National Aviary because of a dispute over funding.


References in popular culture

In Gwyn Cready's comedic romance novel, "Tumbling Through Time," the heroine, Flip Allison, is an ornithologist who works at the National Aviary. Several scenes in the book take place there.


  1. ^ Linda Wilson Fuoco (2006-06-19). "Moves at aviary please residents and visitors alike". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.  
  2. ^ "Aviary gets state grant". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. 2006-07-14.  
  3. ^ Don Hopey (2008-10-28). "Aviary's $23 million upgrade features bird-show theaters". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.  
  4. ^ "Linda Dickerson has been selected as the new chief executive officer of the National Aviary". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. 2007-03-11.  

External links



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