Colcom Foundation Funded Upgrades at The National Aviary Thrill Bird Lovers This Summer

The first (and originally the only) habitat in the National Aviary in Pittsburgh, which underwent a total renovation in 2018 thanks in great part to a generous grant by Colcom Foundation, is in full bloom this summer, providing thrilling experiences for bird lovers and nature enthusiasts of all ages.

The Tropical Rainforest at the National Aviary in Pittsburgh is an indoor habitat where more than 30 diverse bird species roam freely. This lush haven owes its thriving flora to the abundant natural light cascading through over 3,000 bird-friendly glass panels that nourish and sustain the greenery.

For more than 50 years, the Tropical Rainforest stood as a testament to the National Aviary’s dedication to bird conservation and environmental education. However, the passage of time began to take its toll, rendering the exhibit tired and in need of a makeover that would breathe new life into its hallowed halls.

In 2018, The National Aviary embarked on an ambitious renovation project funded by $1 million from Colcom Foundation and other support, aimed at preserving the essence of the exhibit while infusing it with cutting-edge innovations and immersive experiences.

Among the renovations, one made especially for the birds was the installation of 3,146 new panes of laminated glass from Vitro Architectural Glass, a renowned local provider. This remarkable glass not only offers excellent durability but also features innovative acid-etched bird-friendly panes, which serve the dual purpose of protecting the avian residents and preventing predatory birds from seeing potential prey within the exhibit. 

The glass panels are also designed to maximize ultraviolet (UV) and natural light transmittance,  aimed at sustaining the intricate web of life within the exhibit. This supports the growth of vegetation and creates an environment that mirrors the biodiversity of a natural tropical rainforest. 

The Tropical Rainforest also features a stunning 15-foot waterfall that flows into tiered ponds. These ponds provide a natural playground for birds to bathe and engage in playful behaviors. As they stroll along the boardwalk, visitors may be greeted by the sight of Snowy Egrets gracefully wading in one of these ponds. Custom-designed perching structures allow the birds, including friendly Hyacinth Macaws, to interact with visitors as they pass through the exhibit. 

High up in the canopy, Wookiee, the Aviary’s Linnaeus’s Two-toed Sloth, leisurely moves through the treetops. Linnaeus’s two-toed sloth (Choloepus didactylus), also referred to as the southern two-toed sloth, unau, or Linne’s two-toed sloth, is a remarkable South American species found in various countries, including Venezuela, the Guyanas, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and parts of Brazil north of the Amazon River. 

The exhibit also features formerly extinct-in-the-wild Guam Rails. The Guam rail (Hypotaenidia Owstoni) is a flightless bird endemic to Guam. The species vanished from southern Guam in the early 1970s and was later eradicated from the entire island by the late 1980s. The Guam Rail now finds hope through captive breeding efforts led by the Division of Aquatic and Wildlife Resources on Guam and select mainland U.S. zoos. Their presence at The National Aviary’s Tropical Rainforest highlights the Aviary’s commitment to keeping this endangered species from extinction.

Another endangered bird thriving in The Aviary’s Tropical Rainforest is the Victoria Crowned Pigeon. Named after Queen Victoria, this gorgeous bird with its dusty blue-grey feathers, blue lace crest, scarlet eyes, and black mask is native to the forests of New Guinea. Unfortunately, the Victoria Crowned Pigeon faces threats from hunting and habitat destruction, which have already caused their disappearance from many areas in New Guinea. The population of these birds is rapidly declining, and current estimates suggest that there are only 10,000 to 20,000 birds left in the wild, resulting in them being categorized as “near threatened” in terms of conservation status.

Colcom Foundation, a major funder of the restoration of The Tropical Rainforest habitat at the National Aviary, is a philanthropic organization dedicated to environmental stewardship, conservation and sustainability, extending financial grants to local initiatives that address pressing environmental issues and foster collaborative solutions.

The Foundation also actively collaborates with organizations and experts in the field to develop innovative solutions, raise awareness, and drive positive change. 

By funding the restoration of The Tropical Rainforest at the National Aviary, Colcom Foundation hopes to increase environmental consciousness and contribute toward vital conservation efforts and research.

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 As the Tropical Rainforest engages and delights bird lovers this summer, it is also educating future generations about its amazing avian residents and furthering Colcom Foundation’s greater mission–to inspire a deeper respect for our planet and to champion the protection of all its inhabitants, great and small.  

Learn more about Colcom Foundation here:

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