The National Aviary on Pittsburgh’s North Side is still going strong after 70 years. Recently, its Wetlands exhibit underwent a historic transformation.
The National Aviary’s largest habitat, the Wetlands, first opened its doors in 1969. It’s home to a variety of species, including American Flamingos and Brown Pelicans, and lesser-known birds like Boat-billed Herons and Sunbitterns. The Wetlands also houses several species that are vulnerable to extinction. After more than 50 years of wear and tear, Aviary staff determined the habitat needed a makeover.
As a longstanding partner, Vitro Architectural Glass (formerly PPG Glass), was ready, willing, and able to answer the call, and it did just that.
To provide the perfect ambiance for the new habitat, Vitro donated more than 20,000 square feet of Starphire Ultra-Clear® glass – one of the world’s clearest, most transparent float glass products, transmitting 91 percent of visible light in a standard ¼-inch (6 millimeter) thick lite. A portion of the donated Starphire® glass is AviProtek® glass, better known as ‘bird-friendly’ glass, was created in conjunction with Vitro partner Walker Glass.
The Wetlands now features two AviProtek® glass styles – one fully etched for a frosted look and the other etched with a grassy pattern – both of which maximize glass visibility to birds and help prevent collisions. The glass also improves energy efficiency by maximizing ultraviolet and natural light transmittance, which helps year-round to warm the habitat and provide beneficial light for plants and birds.
In addition to gorgeous bird-friendly glass, the ‘new’ Wetlands features new species of birds, a new walkway and rockwork, and an interactive coastal tree sculpture. On October 31, 2022, the transformation was unveiled to the delight of both its birds and guests.
Ribbon cutting (L-R): Ricardo Maiz, President, Vitro Architectural Glass; Sara Innamorato, PA State Representative; Cheryl Tracy, Executive Director, National Aviary; Rich Fitzgerald, Allegheny County Executive; Bobby Wilson, Pittsburgh City Council District 1; Emily Kinkead, PA State Representative; Maggie Pike Iddings, Program Officer, Allegheny Regional Asset District (RAD)
“Vitro is honored to once again support the National Aviary in a monumental improvement that will have profound impact on the community and the environment,” said Ricardo Maiz, president, Vitro Architectural Glass. “This recent renovation provides comfort and beauty for the Wetlands’ birds and its visitors, and these modifications guarantee a thriving future habitat.”
This latest collaboration only strengthens the established relationship between Vitro and the Aviary. With the revamped Wetlands complete, as well as major enhancements to the Tropical Rainforest and The Garden Room over the past five years, Maiz believes this will not only enhance the National Aviary’s status as a world-class attraction, but also further its mission to inspire respect for nature through an appreciation of birds.
“As the National Aviary continues our year-long celebration of our 70th anniversary, we are thrilled to welcome our guests back to our second oldest, and our largest, habitat,” said National Aviary Executive Director Cheryl Tracy. “Every element of this renovation was designed to support the excellent welfare of our birds, while enhancing the immersive experience of our guests.”