National Aviary

Today we made our first trip to the National Aviary in downtown Pittsburgh. What an incredible place. I can’t believe we are just now going there for the first time.



To be honest, it is an expensive place. For me and the two kids, general admission with the add-on “Wings” free-flight show set us back $50. That, plus gas and tolls and parking, made for a pretty pricey afternoon. But as an occasional field trip, it is really very cool. I am going to put a tickler on our calendar to go again in summer, so we can enjoy some of the outdoors areas as well. There is a rose garden that I bet is just beautiful.

There is also a two toed sloth just inside the gift shop entrance.

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We got there just after 1pm and headed straight for the Lorakeet exhibit (after ooohing at the sloth, who was actually moving along that branch). For $3, you can purchase a cup of nectar and the lories will actually hop on your outstretched arms and drink for quite a long while. That sounded fun, so we lined up and waited for the feeding to start.

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Lorakeets travel quite a distance in a day- sometimes as much as 30 miles- to consume the vast quantity of nectar they like to eat. Obviously that is not possible in captivity, but the aviary has these public feeding programs to encourage the lories to fly out of their roosts and obtain food similarly to in the wild.

O6 was adamant about not wanting to feed the lories, but she was willing to take pictures (and did an admirable job of it) while S7 and I held our nectar cups.

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Next it was time for the free-flight bird show, Wings. We had to pass through the tropical rainforest area to get to the theatre. That is a Victoria Crowned Pigeon walking to the left of S7.

Victoria Pigeon in the tropical rainforest area

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There were no cameras allowed in the Wings show, but we probably wouldn’t have taken any pictures anyway. We were all completely enthralled by the macaws and parrots that came flying out overhead from various points in the room at the start of the show. Then they had some small Harris hawks fly out. Some hooded vultures came from boxes high up in the corners of the theater and made a spectacular entrance. There were gulls that ate little meatballs from sticks that had been given to various audience members prior to the show. A white owl also flew over, and the show culminated with a beautiful (albeit sadly, flightless) bald eagle, who did spread his wings while perched on a branch. At the end, we could go up and see a little parrot who would take any folding bills you offered her and stuff them into a box. It was worth a few dollars’ donation to see that.

Just outside the Wings show is the penguin exhibit. These are south African penguins who live in a very similar climate as ours: hot summers and cold winters. They are perfectly at home in Pittsburgh and there is a really neat interactive exhibit with tubes that kids can climb into and see the penguins up close. We spent quite a bit of time crawling through the penguin area.

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We also went outside to the back portion of the exhibit, which offers a chance to feed the penguins during various times of the day. We missed feeding time but it was still neat to see the birds.

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I did not take any pictures of the indoor portion because I was too busy texting DH and trying to coordinate the kids’ popping in and out of the tube on the web cam, so he could see them. He did, but it was a low-res feed so he wasn’t able to get a good screen shot. Drat.

Anyway, after quite a bit of exploration of the penguin area, we went back to the tropical rainforest. Another feeding time was scheduled for 3pm.

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Here comes the Victoria Crowned Pigeon. I guess he’s been here for several years and kind of has the run of the place. He likes to eat grapes and blueberries but will also pick up bugs and foods some of the other birds drop or leave behind.

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S7 was very eager to volunteer to feed the birds. Here, she is getting a bug that she will toss up into the air for a bird to grab in flight. She did it perfectly and the bird caught it (good thing, or it probably would have landed on me!)

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Here is an Ibis getting bugs off of a railing.

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Here is the golden breasted starling who was the original intended recipient of this course.

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We also spied Larry, the White Headed Wattled Lapwing, who popped in for a looksee.

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The kids were amazed at how many bird species were in this room alone.

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By now it was time to sort of make our way back. We passed by a pair of bald eagles

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and some rather large sea-eagles:

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We also noticed the grey winged trumpeters that share a home with the sloth:

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as well as the toucan:

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We were just about to leave when we realized we had missed the Grasslands exhibit off to the side of the first hallway. So we popped in there for a quick look. As luck would have it, the keepers were just feeding some of the birds. Our favorites were the shaft-tailed finches.

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So cute.

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Ooops, here’s somebody’s lunch.

Watch out, grasshopper

The finches seemed to really like these basket-shaped hanging nests. Next time, I am going to bring my big camera so I can get a good picture of them inside.

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Here’s a scarlet-headed blackbird.

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After you walk through the Grasslands exhibit, you end up in the Wetlands area. I’m glad we made it here. This had a lot of the colorful beauty of the Tropical exhibit without the excessive heat and humidity.

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Here is a pair of Spectacled Owls. They hatched a chick who is elsewhere in the aviary.

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There was a nice sized flock of flamingos hanging out in the afternoon sun, too.

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O6 liked the baby one, who was doing a little exploring.

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I believe these are also a type of ibis.

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I loved that the birds are everywhere and fly around as they like. At times I felt like we were the ones on exhibit, instead of them!

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I am really looking forward to revisiting the aviary soon.



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