National Aviary updates interaction

Visitors to the National Aviary in Pittsburgh can have the opportunity to hand feed some species of the approximately 500 birds at the West Park site. — Contributed

PITTSBURGH – A visit to the National Aviary this summer offers guests many fresh new ways to interact with birds from around the world, as well as the opportunity to experience the sensation of flying via a bird flight simulator that uses virtual reality technology.

New programming launched this spring includes a private penguin feeding and Aracari toucan feeding experiences; the opportunity to see adorable baby flamingos hatch and grow; and Birdly, a full-body virtual reality ride that provides visitors the chance to experience the sensation of flying.

Additional interactive experiences, including additional opportunities to hand-feed and get close to the National Aviary’s 500 species of birds are also available.

Birdly

This new full-body virtual reality experience gives the sensation of flying, and is the National Aviary’s newest permanent exhibit created in partnership with Pittsburgh International Airport.

Birdly participants lie on the simulator chest down. Flyers flap their arms using hinged wings, controlling direction and speed of their travel. A fan simulates headwinds and flying speed, while motors and actuators tilt and dip the flyer’s body in response. An HTC Vive headset provides visuals and head-tracking, taking flyers over a virtual New York City. Between the motion, wind, sound and visuals, participants are effectively flying — large monitor allows spectators to witness what the rider is experiencing — and spectators tend to have just as much fun.

Penguin Feeding Experience

This experience will have you so close to the National Aviary’s African penguins, you’ll feel the splash and smell the fish as you settle in amidst the colony in the outdoor Penguin Point exhibit. With a pair of boots and hip waders provided by the National Aviary, you’ll be well-suited to climb up on the rocks and sit alongside a trainer, who will help you learn all about the behaviors of these endangered birds and how they feed. Best of all, participants will have the opportunity to hand-feed fish to the penguins.

Aracari Feeding

In this encounter, guests will get close to the National Aviary’s Curl-crested Aracaris. Guests can also feed these colorful, lively birds as they hop from arm to arm. Native to Brazil, Peru and Bolivia, Curl-crested Aracaris are among the smallest of the toucan species and feature curled feathers on their heads and glossy red feathers around their shoulders. The Aviary’s Aracaris have been hand-raised to be comfortable around humans and are gentle and friendly with children and adults.

Baby Flamingos

This summer, the National Aviary will incubate and hand-raise several American Flamingo chicks to be a part of its interactive programming. The public will have the chance to watch the eggs in the incubator through the Avian Care Center window, and if guests time their visit right, may even see the chicks hatch. The chicks will be given plenty of attention, assuring their comfort level with humans, and once they’ve grown a bit, can be seen later this summer doing their distinctive and adorable flamingo strut outside in the National Aviary’s Rose Garden. Don’t miss seeing these adorable grey bundles mature into graceful, long-legged teenagers.

Soar! on Sky Deck

See Lanner falcons, hooded vultures, black kites and eagles in the free-flight, open air show, Soar! This awe-inspiring presentation spotlights the hunting prowess of these incredible birds of prey and the training techniques used by their highly skilled trainers. Soar! on Sky Deck opens Saturday and will run through Labor Day (weather permitting).

Nature’s Voice

This free-flight show provides fresh insights into the role that birds have played in ancient mythology, culture and legend around the world and provides audiences the opportunity to see and learn about many rare and beautiful bird species in an intimate theater setting in which audience members are never more than a few feet away from the stars of the show. Guests will watch small but mighty burrowing owls swoop, fly and demonstrate signature burrowing behavior. They will see the rare palm nut vulture in flight; hear from a laughing kookaburra; experience so-close-you’ll-feel-a-breeze flyovers by silver gulls and one of the world’s largest owl species, an Eurasian eagle owl; and witness the unique hunting techniques of the Harris hawk. Video, music and narration enhance the program.

The National Aviary is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For show schedules, admission rates, encounter pricing and information, visit www.aviary.org or call (412) 323-7235.Advance booking for Sky Deck is recommended.

The National Aviary is America’s only independent indoor nonprofit zoo dedicated exclusively to birds. Located in West Park on Pittsburgh’s historic North Side, the National Aviary’s diverse collection comprises 500 birds representing more than 150 species from around the world, many of them threatened or endangered in the wild. 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 and to meet many species rarely found in zoos anywhere else in the world.

For information visit www.aviary.org .

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