National Aviary’s Tropical Rainforest Reopens after $1.2 Million Renovation


Immersive habitat features bird-friendly glass, 15-foot waterfall,

new bird and plant species, and Wookiee the sloth


(PITTSBURGH) – July 13, 2018 – The National Aviary today celebrated the completion of $1.2 million in renovations to its historic Tropical Rainforest with a ribbon-cutting ceremony conducted by National Aviary Executive Director Cheryl Tracy; Dan Griffin, Chair, Board of Directors, The Allegheny Regional Asset District; Catalina Lehmann, Program Director, Colcom Foundation; and Richard A. Beuke, President, Vitro Architectural Glass. The lush habitat, which officially reopened to the public today, features an expansive new dome made of 19,600 square feet of unique, bird-friendly glass; a 15-foot tiered waterfall that encompasses immersive spaces for birds to bathe and play; new tropical plants and trees, including cacao and coffee as tools for conservation education; custom perches; new lighting and flooring; and other energy-efficient enhancements. This project was funded by Colcom Foundation and The Allegheny Regional Asset District.


                “With this renovation to the National Aviary’s oldest room, we have constructed a beautiful habitat that mimics the environment that tropical bird and mammal species would inhabit in the wild,” says National Aviary Executive Director Cheryl Tracy. “The trees and plants have been carefully selected to represent the diversity of the rainforest ecosystem, and to create a healthy environment that encourages nesting and other natural behaviors.”

                Visitors will immediately notice the abundance of light that now permeates through the new glass roof.  Custom perches near walkways will enable closer views of many signature birds, and the waterfall will attract birds to splash and swim. 

                “These features of the redesigned space will engage and delight visitors of all ages, and along with docents and interactive signage, will encourage greater understanding of rainforest habitats, our dependence on them, and the actions we all can take to help protect them,” says Tracy.

New bird species are being gradually added to the space, with each being given plenty of time to acclimate. Species favorites that made their home in the Tropical Rainforest prior to renovation have returned, including a critically endangered Palm Cockatoo, a male and female Great Argus Pheasant, flocks of Victoria Crowned Pigeons and Southern Bald Ibis, extinct-in-the wild Guam Rails, and a pair of Laughing Thrushes.

Among the colorful new inhabitants are a female Hyacinth Macaw, who will be a companion to Benito, a Hyacinth Macaw that has been at the National Aviary since 1993. Bufflehead Ducks can be seen splashing in the pond at the bottom of the waterfall, while lively Superb Starlings, recognizable by their striking metallic green and blue feathers, are already at home in their new habitat. A Military Macaw named Mac will also inhabit the Tropical Rainforest.

A familiar National Aviary visitor favorite, Wookiee, an adult Linnaeus’s Two-toed Sloth, is trying out the Tropical Rainforest as his new home. As he becomes familiar with this habitat, visitors looking up into the canopy may be able to see him sleeping, eating, and even moving through the tree branches overhead. 

A key component of the renovation effort was the replacement of 19,600 square feet of original glass panes along the walls and roof of the habitat.  Each of the 3,146 panes was replaced one by one with laminated Starphire Ultra-Clear® glass by Vitro Architectural Glass (formerly PPG Glass), featuring bird-friendly AviProtek® Velour acid-etched finish by Walker Glass.  The new bird-friendly glass is designed to prevent collision by birds both inside and outside the habitat, and prevent birds of prey flying outside from seeing and attempting to reach potential prey living inside the building. The glass also maximizes ultraviolet (UV) and natural light transmittance to help sustain wildlife and plant life throughout the year.  

The Tropical Rainforest renovation is funded by Colcom Foundation and The Allegheny Regional Asset District. Its summer completion coincides with the 25th anniversary of the Aviary’s official national designation and renaming as the National Aviary.


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


National Aviary Tropical Rainforest project partners include: Vitro Architectural Glass (formerly PPG Glass) (glass manufacturer); Walker Glass Company Ltd (AviProtek® bird friendly Velour acid-etch finish); Dlubak Specialty Glass Corporation (glass fabricator/glass recycling); Greenhouse Renovation Services, Inc. (glass installation and project management); Weber Group (waterfall design and construction) and Montgomery Smith Inc. (design and engineer consultant).





2018 has been designated Year of the Bird by the National Geographic Society, in recognition of the centennial of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, a key bird-protection law.  The National Aviary is proud to join National Geographic and other bird and wildlife organizations in celebrating birds, and encouraging  learning and action to protect wild bird species and their habitats.  Learn more at