Seeing Birds at the National Aviary

Winter school break looms large over the holiday season. What to do with the kids between Christmas and New Years? Why, take them to the National Aviary, of course!

There are few opportunities to get swooshed by a Victoria Crowned Pigeon (the bird is so much more fabulous looking than “pigeon” implies), or swooshed by several species of woodlands birds… but the National Aviary, in Pittsburgh, gives you that chance — and if you love birds — or even if you’re just mildly interested — you should really go check it out.

Home to over 600 animals representing about 200 species — including the Victoria Crowned Pigeon, the National Aviary, located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is the only independent indoor nonprofit aviary in the United States. It is also the country’s largest aviary.

In case you’re wondering why it’s the “national” aviary, and not “just” the Pittsburgh aviary, or some such name, that’s because Congress formally accorded it “national” status.

The National Aviary’s collection features birds representing every continent except Antarctica.  Many of these species are showcased in free-flight mixed species exhibits, to allow the birds to demonstrate natural behaviors. It was in one of these free-flight rooms where I was swooshed by the gorgeous pigeon.

The National Aviary has daily interactive experiences for visitors. Some of these include Penguin Point, a new exhibit featuring 11 African penguins and underwater viewing; Penguin Connection, a private encounter with an African penguin (for an additional fee); Little Peepers, a program for preschoolers; 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 visitors. The day I was there, I watched the baby sloth feeding, an adventure in patience — although cute as a button, the little critter doesn’t move fast. It was like watching a feeding in slow motion.
This place is kid-friendly. In fact, I felt a little out of place, being there without a kid or two or four in tow. It really is a delightful place for kids, of all ages. I was just as amazed as the littlest ones watching the baby sloth, or looking at the toucan or getting swooshed by the crowned pigeon.

Getting there: 700 Arch St, Pittsburgh, PA 15212

Hours: The National Aviary is open daily, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. except Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, and Christmas.


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