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Plan your next visit to the National Aviary at!


To help us care for our flock during these challenging times, make a donation to our Vital Care Efforts.

National Aviary Names Newest African Penguins "Disco Dan" and "Mary Beth," Announces April 5 They'll Join the Colony


March 21, 2014 (Pittsburgh, PA) – Pittsburgh Penguins Head Coach Dan Bylsma and his family visited the National Aviary today for a celebration of the penguin kind – African Penguins that is. The National Aviary surprised Bylsma and his family prior to a celebratory penguin practice swim today, naming their two newest African Penguins – a female and male hatched on November 29 and December 2, 2013, respectively – after Mary Beth and “Disco Dan” Bylsma.

Following the naming celebration, the two chicks marched triumphantly from an off-exhibit area, posed for photos with Bylsma and his family, and then were carried to the exhibit’s pool for a practice swim session with their future penguin “teammates” in the Penguin Point exhibit, which is sponsored by Trib Total Media.

The two new African Penguins will officially join the colony on Saturday, April 5, when their new arm bands will be unveiled, they’ll take a ceremonial dive, and Pittsburgh Penguins mascot Iceburgh will be greeting visitors to Penguin Point.

 “The naming of our newest African Penguins presented a wonderful opportunity to bring together our African Penguins and the Pittsburgh Penguins. And we’re delighted to be able to recognize the friendship and support that the Bylsma family has shared with the National Aviary beginning even before they moved to Pittsburgh,” says Cheryl Tracy, managing director of the National Aviary.

Visitors watched the juvenile penguins with delight as they spent some time in the pool for a practice swim following their official introduction. The juveniles participate in practice swims for a few weeks prior to officially joining the exhibit. This allows them time to acclimate to their new surroundings, learn to climb in and out of the pool, and get used to the other penguins. The resident penguins also need time to adjust to the newcomers.

“Getting in and out of the pool is an important step,” explains Teri Grendzinski supervisor of animal collections at the National Aviary who works with the penguins regularly. “We stand by in wetsuits and watch to ensure the juveniles don’t panic if they aren’t able to climb the rocks right away. These penguins have already adapted to water in a small pool off exhibit, and penguins naturally float, so as long as they don’t panic they are fine. In fact, these two learned quickly to climb the rocks and have had no problems getting out of the pool when they want to.”

Visitors to the National Aviary between now and April 5 may be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of these juveniles in the exhibit. They can be recognized by their solid grey and white juvenile feathers, which distinguish them from the black and white of the mature adults. African Penguins get their adult feathers following their first molt, about 18 months after they hatch.

The National Aviary’s Penguin Point was opened in 2009 and, with the addition of these two juvenile African Penguins on April 5, the colony will grow to 18 members.



About 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 500 birds representing more than 150 species from around the world, many of them threatened or endangered in the wild. The National Aviary’s large walk-through exhibits create an intimate, up-close interaction between visitors and free-flying birds, including opportunities to hand-feed and to meet many species rarely found in zoos anywhere else in the world. Hours of operation are 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. daily. For admission rates and more information visit


Media Contact: Robin Weber

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