Adventures in Ornithography; or, the National Aviary

Adventures in Ornithography; or, the National Aviary

Let me give you a little insight into the Asparagus Clan’s road trips. Dad drives, Mom rides shotgun, and every once in a while she says – sometimes shouts – “Bird!” To which my father, very calmly, replies either “Yes, there is,” or “I can’t stop the car right now.”

My mom has a thing with birds. Luckily for her, when my dad does stop the car, she’s free to take as many bird pictures as she likes. (For those of you who are interested, you can check out her pictures on her SmugMug page.) There are long stretches of quality family time occupied by avian photography. There was even that one time we made a very special stop for her to take bird pictures.

Flamingos doing as flamingos must

While camping outside of Pittsburgh, we cast about for something to do, and hit upon an institution called the National Aviary. Naturally, this appealed to my mother, and by extension the rest of us, so we piled into the car and made our way into town.

Now, don’t get me wrong. The rest of us were also willing to go to the bird zoo. Zoos were always a big hit in our family, especially with a young me. As I got older, though, I started having ethical issues with zoos – imaging how distraught I was when I found out that keeping my favorite animals to visit, the elephants, in the zoo was actually really bad for them! Since learning things like this, zoos and I have an awkward relationship. But not so with the National Aviary.

A vulture stretches his wings

In addition to being a zoo – and therefore a great way to entertain the kids (of whatever ages) in your family – the National Aviary participates in conservation efforts through breeding programs, education, and environmental protection. That means that when you visit the aviary, you’re not just seeing pretty birds, you’re helping save endangered species and provide safe environments for them to live in. So you can even feel good about this visit.

The aviary itself is divided into different habitats, just like a zoo, and birds that would live around each other in the wild are kept in either the same habitat or nearby habitats. For the birds that fly, there’s plenty of room for zooming and zipping, and land-bound birds are afforded quite a bit of space.

Batty bats taking a nappy nap

One of the highlights of visiting the National Aviary: you can take the youngsters into the enclosures to feed the birds. At regular feeding times, the staff designate a habitat that visitors can enter, a few people at a time, with a dish of food. The event is supervised by staff, and participants are only permitted to give the birds the proper food, so it’s perfectly safe for both humans and birds. Well – perfectly safe aside from the occasional poop bomb, that is. We are dealing with birds, after all.

monarch butterfly
A pretty little monarch butterfly

If you’re done with the birds, you can head outside and see the butterflies! During the summer, when caterpillars are emerging from cocoons as butterflies, the National Aviary also has a butterfly house, where you can get up close and personal with those beautiful creatures.

So if ever you’re looking for something to do with the kids – or just the bird lovers – in Pittsburgh, pay a visit to the city’s historic North Side and its almost 500 avian inhabitants.

National Aviary
Well said!

Visiting the National Aviary:

Getting there: The National Aviary’s address is 700 Arch Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15212. Head over to their website for parking information. Note: It’s right near the Children’s Museum, so if you’re planning a day for the kids, the logistics would work in your favor here!

Admission: Adults are $16, children and seniors $14 for admission to the National Aviary.

Hours: The National Aviary is open from 10 to 5 daily, although the facilities are occasionally closed for private events. Check the website before you go to avoid any disappointment!

Website: You can visit the National Aviary website here.

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