National Aviary adds new feathered residents to renovated Wetlands habitat | Pittsburgh City Paper

National Aviary adds new feathered residents to renovated Wetlands habitat

click to enlarge A Blue-billed Curassow bird with a brown belly and dark upper feathers perches on a branch.
Photo: Mike Faix
Blue-billed Curassow at the National Aviary
The National Aviary boasts 500 birds each representing more than 150 diverse species from around the world. Among these are several recent additions.

Visitors can now catch a few unfamiliar beaked faces in the form of the “critically endangered” blue-billed curassow, pink-headed fruit-doves, scarlet-faced liocichlas, black-necked stilts, and puna teal.

The latest arrivals come as part of the newly renovated Wetlands habitat, which was reopened on Oct. 31 as part of a ribbon-cutting ceremony. According to a press release, the space now features a 20-foot sculptural tree with “immersive elements for guests and birds alike” and a resurfaced walkway, as well as energy-efficient systems and other improvements.

“As the National Aviary continues our year-long celebration of our 70th anniversary, we are thrilled to welcome our guests back to our second oldest, and our largest, habitat,” says National Aviary executive director Cheryl Tracy. “Every element of this renovation was designed to support the excellent welfare of our birds, while enhancing the immersive experience of our guests.”

The Wetlands renovation, which cost $3 million, adds to other efforts by the aviary to better engage guests with its wildlife. In October 2021, the aviary launched its Forests programming focused on "species that rely on forests, including humans, and what people can do to help conserve and protect them," according to a previous Pittsburgh City Paper article.
click to enlarge A Puna Teal duck with a blue bill spreads its wings while riding on the water.
Photo: Mike Faix
Puna Teal at the National Aviary
The Wetlands updates modernize a space originally constructed in 1969, with elements being added to improve the birds’ overall quality of life. This includes 20,000 square feet of “bird-friendly glass” by Vitro Architectural Glass. Instead of being fully transparent, the glass was glazed with two patterns, one a “frosted look,” the other “a grassy pattern,” to help prevent birds from striking windows. The National Aviary claims the specially designed glass also improves energy efficiency by “maximizing ultraviolet and natural light transmittance, which helps to warm the habitat and provide beneficial light for plants and birds all year.”

The organization cites the Wetlands' new “custom-fabricated coastal tree” as the “centerpiece of the renovation,” adding that the structure provides an ideal spot for birds to perch and “sun themselves," and tree-themed seating for guests. It also features a platform that will be used to stage Aviary’s talks, feedings, and other interactive educational programming.

Still, the real highlights of the Wetlands habitat are the new winged residents, who joined the already-settled American flamingos and brown pelicans.

So far, the aviary claims that the birds "are thriving" in the Wetlands' "lush, light-filled space and enjoying the exciting new features."
National Aviary. 700 Arch St., North Side.

Flamingo Fest at the National Aviary
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Flamingo Fest at the National Aviary

By Mars Johnson