National Aviary Kicks Off $1.2 Million Renovation of Historic Tropical Rainforest

Birds at the National Aviary
Courtesy of Google Images

Project includes replacement of more than 3,000 original planes of glass, construction of new waterfall, new plants and trees, new bird species, and expanded educational programming.

(PITTSBURGH) – April 20, 2018 – The National Aviary today kicked off $1.2 million in renovations to its Tropical Rainforest habitat, the facility’s oldest room. The project marks the first renovation of the Tropical Rainforest since it opened in 1952, and its completion this summer coincides with the 25th anniversary of the Aviary’s official national designation and renaming as the National Aviary.

The National Aviary Tropical Rainforest renovation is made possible by the Colcom Foundation and the Allegheny Regional Asset District.

The renovation comprises replacement of 3,146 panes of original glass that form the sides and roof of the Tropical Rainforest habitat; construction of a 15-foot waterfall that spills out to three tiers of ponds and encompasses immersive spaces for birds to bathe, play and nest; installation of  a variety of new tropical plants, including cacao and coffee trees as tools for conservation education; custom perches; new lighting and flooring; and other energy-efficient enhancements. New bird species and educational programming will be introduced in the space when work is completed in July.

“As one of the National Aviary’s largest free-flight spaces, the Tropical Rainforest is a visitor favorite,” says National Aviary Executive Director Cheryl Tracy. “The significance of this room gives us a great opportunity. The vision for the Tropical Rainforest, and all our habitats, is to mimic the wild environments they represent, not only because this creates healthy homes for our birds, but also as a way to represent the diversity of an ecosystem and the varieties of plants, mammals, birds and other species that live there. Our goal is to create an emotional connection through immersive experiences in those environments, and most importantly, to enable visitors to connect with the important conservation concepts that will enable all of us to work together to protect these habitats.”

A key component of the renovation effort is the replacement of 19,600 square feet of original glass panes along the walls and roof of the habitat.  While the frames have remained structurally sound throughout the years, the glazing compounds holding the glass in place have deteriorated, allowing air and water leaks. Each pane is being removed by hand, recycled and replaced with Vitro Architectural Glass (formerly PPG Glass) Starphire Ultra-Clear® glass, featuring AviProtek® bird-friendly Velour acid-etched finish by Walker Glass.

The design and selection of glass for a room that must be bird, plant and people friendly presented challenges unique to the National Aviary planning team. The Tropical Rainforest requires that the glass be designed to prevent collision by birds both inside and outside the habitat, while also allowing sufficient UV penetration to support plants and trees in the space. Further, the Tropical Rainforest glass etching needed to prevent outdoor birds of prey such as hawks, peregrines, eagles or owls from seeing or attempting to reach birds inside the Tropical Rainforest habitat. The resulting glass choice was uniquely selected for this purpose after hours of collaboration and research by the National Aviary project team.

The Tropical Rainforest will be under construction through spring and early summer, with an anticipated opening in July 2018. Daily, during construction, visitors will be able to get sneak peeks of construction to witness the transformation, as well as see historic photos showing the Tropical Rainforest when it was being built and at its opening in 1952.

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).

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).



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 

About the National Aviary

The National Aviary is America’s only independent indoor nonprofit zoo dedicated exclusively to birds. Located on Pittsburgh’s historic North Side, the National Aviary’s diverse collection represents more than 150 species from around the world, many of them threatened or endangered. 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. Hours of operation are 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. daily. For admission rates and more information visit

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