Earlier this month my family had the opportunity to spend a few days in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. We had such a good time! I hope we’ll get the chance to go back soon. Even with all we crammed into just a few days I know we could have easily kept busy seeing the sights for a whole week! One of the major highlights of our trip was our visit to the National Aviary. We’ve taken the kids to zoos before but none of the four of us had ever been to such a cool attraction with animals!
The National Aviary is the only independent, indoor non-profit zoo dedicated entirely to birds in all of the United States. There are more than 600 birds there including more than 200 species around the world. The coolest thing for us about the Aviary was how close you could get to the birds. We felt like we stepped into their world and got to see them in as natural a habitat as possible outside of living in the wild. Many of these species are endangered so this is a fantastic refuge for them.
As an environmental organization composed of educators, conservationists and researchers, the National Aviary’s goals are many. The Aviary aims to provide outstanding education programming for varied audiences; present the highest quality family recreational experience that a zoological institution can offer; save endangered species by preserving natural habitats; continue endangered bird breeding programs and conduct meaningful avian research; engender a sincere appreciation of nature and a respect for natural law; and instill a conservation ethic that teaches our immense responsibility as stewards of the planet.
We got a map of the Aviary and went on a self-guided tour, but they do have guided tours for groups that can be arranged. We passed one group of Scouts and listened in on some of the tour for a few minutes. The tour guide gave some really interesting information and answered a bunch of the kids’ questions. There’s a lot of signage throughout all of the exhibits that provides a lot of background on all of the birds. Just as soon as we walked into the exhibit area the nice lady at check in pointed out this hiding two-toed sloth, too! Cute little guy, isn’t he?
That same helpful employee let us know we were just in time to ‘feed the lories.’ I am actually a semi-dedicated bird watcher with a few feeders in our yard and having grown up with a Dad who was an even more avid bird fan, but I had no clue what she was talking about. Sounded interesting though, so we made our way to the rainbow lorikeets exhibit at the back of the Tropical Rainforest exhibit and were WOWED as soon as we walked in. These birds, native to Australia, are so colorful and friendly. For a couple of bucks we each got a little cup full of nectar to feed the birds. They come right to you and land on your hands and arms and drink the nectar right up. My 3 year-old son was so awed with the birds that he promptly spilled his nectar on the floor. The nice folks working the exhibit gave him a refill on the house. 😉
Feeding the lories was definitely the highlight of our trip. Look how excited my kids were! How often do you get to hand feed tropical birds? It was quite an awesome experience.
We then explored the Tropical Rainforest where we got up close and personal with these Victoria Crowned Pigeons. They came right up to us and they are so beautiful. It was so cool to see them up close. One was kind of following my daughter around which gave her a big thrill!
We saw a lot of other neat tropical birds, too. Part of the fun is looking around to see where they’re all hiding. These pretty guys were way up in the trees.
There’s a really neat penguin exhibit that we all enjoyed, too. It started to rain just a bit while we were there but we still toured the outside portion so we could see it all. It really is cool to watch a penguin dive into the water and swim. Like Happy Feet right in front of you! They’re fast, though, so snapping a picture is no easy task! I don’t think I’ve ever been that close to a penguin before. Really cool!
The Wetlands exhibit was another spot we spent a good deal of time. My daughter made fast friends with these Wattled Curassows (see how close you can get to the birds?!) and I loved to see the pink flamingos in the water. I think you do just feel relaxed around birds. I could have spent hours there hanging out and watching them.
The Grasslands exhibit was also beautiful. This is where we saw the Paradise Whydah with this looooong tail. We actually got to see him fly across the room! Looks pretty neat with that fancy tail trailing behind.
Finally there were some individual exhibits that we really loved. This cute Burrowing Owl is pretty small and just adorable. We all fell in love with him.
And seeing a Bald Eagle up close and personal is pretty stunning too. You don’t realize how big these birds are until you’re only feet away!
We’ve always had an appreciation for birds in our family. We get it from generations past, and we enjoy the birds that visit our own yard. The National Aviary in Pittsburgh is unlike any other zoo and while there is so much to see and so much to learn, it felt small and intimate enough that you were able to see everything and spend enough time in each exhibit to really experience the habitat of the world’s birds. There’s actually even more to see than what I covered here!
If you are lucky enough to travel to Pittsburgh, definitely add a stop at The National Aviary to your must-see list. Get a feel for the layout of the facility and the birds you’ll find there by browsing their informative website, and be sure to follow them on Facebook and Twitter to hear about their newest exhibits and special events! This was definitely a high point (probably THE high point) of our trip!
Check out all of our Pittsburgh adventures:
- Lego KidsFest in Pittsburgh December 2012
- Visit Pittsburgh: A Thriving City Full of Hospitality & Family-Friendly Attractions
- Visit Pittsburgh: The Duquesne Incline & One Amazing View
- Visit Pittsburgh: The Carnegie Science Center Is Hands-On Fun & Learning!
- Visit Pittsburgh: Close (and Awesome!) Encounters at The National Aviary
I was provided with complimentary and/or discounted accommodations and admission to attractions in exchange for this review. The opinions in this post are 100% mine. You can read my full disclosure policy here.