The Wetlands exhibit at Pittsburgh’s National Aviary is home to diverse species, from familiar favorites to lesser-known birds.
Since 1952 the National Aviary, in Allegheny Commons Park on Pittsburgh’s North Side, has been home to formidable flocks of our fine feathered friends. Visitors can commune with about 500 birds of more than 150 species — from the African Penguin to the Bald Eagle.
In 1969, the Aviary built the Wetlands, an expansive habitat surrounded by walls of paneled glass. The habitat has a warm, tropical feeling, with lush plants and a pond that spans the length of the room. It is home to diverse species, from familiar favorites like American Flamingos and Brown Pelicans, to lesser-known birds like Boat-billed Herons and Sunbitterns.
It is also home to a number of species that are vulnerable to extinction, and its naturalistic features support the natural courting and nesting behaviors of species like the Endangered Scaly-sided Merganser.
Over time, the glass enclosing the Wetlands exhibit became weathered and Aviary staff determined the room needed an update both aesthetically and mechanically. So, in June, together with Vitro Architectural Glass (formerly PPG Glass), the Aviary began renovations to its largest and second oldest habitat.
The habitat is undergoing a transformation, which is expected to be completed by year’s end, that includes new bird-friendly glass, energy efficient air circulation and water filtration systems, many new plants, a new walkway, and the addition of a beautiful sculptural coastal tree that provides perching for birds and interactive elements for visitors.
The habitat redesign includes the replacement of more than 20,000-square-feet of glass. The original glass will be replaced with Starphire Ultra-Clear® glass by Vitro Architectural Glass. Introduced in 1990 and manufactured in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, Starphire Ultra-Clear® glass is the clearest, most transparent commercial float glass available with visible light transmittance (VLT) of 91 percent in a standard ¼-inch (6 millimeter) thick lite.
A portion of the donated Starphire® glass will be AviProtek® glass created in conjunction with Walker Glass. The AviProtek® glass will feature two bird-friendly patterns—one fully etched to create a frosted look and the other etched with a naturalistic grassy pattern—to prevent window strikes by birds.
Ricardo Maiz, president, Vitro Architectural Glass, said sponsorship of the National Aviary project highlights Vitro Glass’s commitment to their core values of community involvement and environmental protection.
“Vitro is proud of its longstanding relationship with the National Aviary, having, in the recent past, donated glass to the renovation of the Tropical Rainforest habitat and The Garden Room,” said Maiz. “The Aviary is one of Pittsburgh’s jewels and Vitro is honored to contribute the glass that will allow the Wetlands habitat to shine for years to come.”
Maiz added that the revamped Wetlands 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.
“It’s fitting that the transformation of the historic Wetlands, one of the National Aviary’s oldest and best loved habitats, comes as we celebrate a major milestone: our 70th anniversary,” says Cheryl Tracy, Executive Director of the National Aviary. “Our continuing partnership with Vitro will help us continue to meet the needs of the birds that call the Wetlands home while providing a comfortable and beautiful environment in which visitors can immerse themselves in the experience of watching these birds express their natural behaviors.”