A Pittsburgh Landmark Gets a Tropical Makeover

The National Aviary’s first room just received a $1.2 million renovation — now you can see it for yourself.

photo courtesy carnegie library of pittsburgh archive


The National Aviary’s original room just got a makeover.

In March of this year, a $1.2 million renovation of the Tropical Rainforest, which was built in 1952, began. On July 13, the revitalized habitat reopened to visitors, coinciding with the 25th anniversary of the National Aviary’s official national designation.

photo by jim cunningham


The revamped room features 3,146 new panes of laminated glass; each pane of original glass was removed by hand, recycled and replaced with unique bird-friendly glass — all locally sourced from Vitro Architectural Glass (formerly PPG Glass). Acid Etching on the glass prevents collisions by birds both inside and outside the habitat, and the translucent finish maximizes ultraviolet transmittance to help sustain wildlife and plant life throughout the year. 

The renovations also include a 15-foot tiered waterfall with specially designed spaces for birds to bathe and play, new tropical plants including cacao and coffee for conservation education, energy-efficient enhancements and more.

Photo by Nate-Sexauer


Returning bird residents include a critically endangered Palm Cockatoo, Victoria Crowned Pigeons, extinct-in-the wild Guam Rails and a pair of Great Argus Pheasants, just to name a few. Among the new inhabitants are a female Hyacinth Macaw (a companion to Benito, a Hyacinth Macaw that has been at the National Aviary since 1993,) Bufflehead Ducks and Superb Starlings. Guests can even catch a glimpse of Wookiee, a Linnaeus’s Two-toed Sloth, as he climbs, sleeps and hangs out in his new habitat.

The birds will be gradually introduced to their new home and will have time to acclimate to their upgraded habitat, which has been carefully designed to encourage natural behaviors. Every detail is constructed to mimic a tropical rainforest, complete with flowing water that pools into tiered ponds around the waterfall, allowing the birds to bathe and swim. More than 400 plants fill the space, and perches allow the birds to climb up close to passersby.

As guests explore the new space, they will have opportunities to learn about the various species and the challenges they face as rainforests are depleted to make the many products we choose to consume. Visitors will learn how simple, everyday choices can reduce their environmental impact and help preserve rainforests and the vital resources they provide.

The Tropical Rainforest renovation is funded by Colcom Foundation and the Allegheny Regional Asset District and is sponsored by Allegheny Health Network, Peoples, Trib Total Media and Vitro Architectural Glass.

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