Celeste Van Kirk/Observer-Reporter

Mac the military macaw eats a peanut while perched in a tree during the National Aviary’s Tropical Rainforest grand opening in Pittsburgh on Friday.


Celeste Van Kirk/Observer-Reporter

A Hyacinth Macaw perched in a tree.

PITTSBURGH – The National Aviary in Pittsburgh just completed a $1.2 million renovation of the historic Tropical Rainforest habitat, and for about 70 endothermic vertebrates that make their home there, that’s just ducky.

While they were re-homed for the past three months during construction, the resident birds, including Victoria crowned pigeons, laughing thrushes, hyacinth macaws, bufflehead ducks and great argus pheasants, have been slowly introduced to their new digs.

A 15-foot waterfall with three pools dominates the space, surrounded by new non-slip flooring, lighting, custom perches and tropical plants and trees.


Celeste Van Kirk/Observer-Reporter

Victoria crowned pigeons sit in a tree in the National Aviary’s Tropical Rainforest in Pittsburgh on Friday.

“It’s all about the birds,” said aviary Executive Director Cheryl Tracy, who unveiled the habitat Friday.

More than 3,100 panes of original glass – 19,600 square feet – were replaced with bird-friendly glass designed to prevent collisions both inside and out. The new dome also maximizes ultraviolet light transmittance to help the wildlife and plants thrive.


Celeste Van Kirk/Observer-Reporter

Southern bald ibises perch high in a tree under the new dome, made of 19,600 square feet of bird-friendly glass.

The old glass, said Tracy, was failing, resulting in energy loss and water leaks. Luckily the framing, constructed in 1952, was in good condition and able to be restored.

The habitat was designed to mimic a real rainforest, and to encourage nesting and other natural behaviors.


Celeste Van Kirk/Observer-Reporter

A palm cockatoo perched in a tree during the National Aviary’s Tropical Rainforest grand opening on Friday.

The critically endangered palm cockatoo makes its home in the habitat, as does Wookiee, a two-toed sloth, and Guam rails, which are extinct in the wild. The aviary is leading the effort to breed the birds and reintroduce them to the wild. In addition to the birds who previously lived in the rainforest habitat, about 13 new species will be added.

The project was funded by Colcom Foundation and the Allegheny Regional Asset District, which funds regional assets from one-half of the proceeds of the 1 percent Allegheny County Sales and Use Tax. Over the past 23 years, the district has provided $26 million to the aviary, which is the only independent indoor nonprofit zoo in the U.S. dedicated exclusively to birds.


Celeste Van Kirk/Observer-Reporter

A hyacinth macaw appears acrobatic while balanced on a limb in the Rainforest.

The completion of the Tropical Rainforest coincides with the 25th anniversary of the aviary’s national designation and renaming as the National Aviary.

“(The renovation) was a labor of love for every single person at the aviary,” said Tracy.

The National Aviary, 700 Arch St., Pittsburgh, is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. For more information, visit

Community Editor

Natalie Reid Miller is Community Editor and has worked at the Observer-Reporter since 2013. With fellow Observer-Reporter journalists, she won the Press Club of Western Pennsylvania’s Ray Sprigle Memorial Award for the “Under the Label” social series.

See what people are talking about at The Community Table!

Thank you for reading!

Please purchase a subscription to continue reading. If you have a subscription, please Log In.