The National Aviary

The National Aviary is America’s only independent indoor nonprofit zoo dedicated exclusively to birds. Located in West Park on Pittsburgh’s historic North Side, the National Aviary’s diverse collection comprises more than 600 birds representing more than 200 species from around the world, many of them threatened or endangered in the wild.

The National Aviary’s large walk-through exhibits create an experience unlike any other – an intimate, up-close interaction between visitors and free-flying birds, including opportunities to hand-feed and meet many species rarely found in zoos anywhere else in the world.

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.

National Aviary
Allegheny Commons West
700 Arch Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15212

In the late 19th century, Pittsburgh’s first plant conservatory was established on the Aviary site, in a location previously occupied by the Western Penitentiary from 1826 to 1880. The conservatory was destroyed by a natural gas explosion in the late 1920s, and in 1952 was rebuilt by the City of Pittsburgh with the addition of birds to the indoor gardens. The Aviary was one of the first zoos to present its collection in free-flight rooms and natural exhibits with over 25,000 square feet of space.

In the 1980s, the Aviary began evolving its focus toward wildlife conservation through captive breeding of rare and endangered birds. When municipal budgetary cuts threatened to close the institution in 1991, a group of concerned citizens formed Save the Aviary, Inc., a private nonprofit corporation. The Aviary was privatized in 1992 and a year later, by declaration of the U.S. Congress, the Pittsburgh Aviary was designated honorary national status and renamed the National Aviary in Pittsburgh.

In 2009, the Aviary began a $17.5 million expansion. Led by SPRINGBOARD Design, expansion includes construction of the Helen M. Schmidt FliteZone Theater, an indoor, 125-seat space for presenting free-flight bird shows, films and educational programming; the addition of a rooftop Sky Deck for bird of prey lure-flying demonstrations and releases; a café; classrooms; new facades; new exhibits; and a new grand entrance and lobby space.

The Helen M. Schmidt FliteZone Theater is the world’s first and only indoor theater constructed exclusively for the presentation of live, free-flight bird shows. The Aviary’s expansion and renovation has achieved Silver LEED (Leadership in Energy Efficiency and Design) Certification for green building standards.

The Aviary’s flock of 16 African penguins has a new home at Penguin Point, which affords up-close, 360-degree views of the penguins swimming, playing, nesting and scaling rocks in an open-air space. A wheelchair-accessible Kids ViewTube under the exhibit offers underwater views of the penguins as they dive, swim and “flu” through the pool, while domed bubbles allow young guests the chance to  pop up in the middle of the penguin group.

With world-first avian breedings, numerous education awards, internationally recognized field research and conservation programs, a world-class avian veterinary program that is breaking new ground in preventative care, and multiple opportunities for interactive experiences, the National Aviary has grown from simply presenting its collection in attractive settings to realizing its responsibility to celebrate, protect and preserve birds for the perpetuation of the web of life.