Premiere Aviary show brings new bird species to Pittsburgh | Blogh

Premiere Aviary show brings new bird species to Pittsburgh

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Tomorrow, the National Aviary unveils two species of birds new to Pittsburgh at its latest indoor free-flight bird show, Nature’s Voice.

The Aviary's Cathy Schlott with Severus, a palm-nut vulture, at a press preview of Nature's Voice. - PHOTO BY COURTNEY LINDER
  • Photo by Courtney Linder
  • The Aviary's Cathy Schlott with Severus, a palm-nut vulture, at a press preview of Nature's Voice.
The program's stars are a pair of tiny burrowing owls, named Addie and Denver, and a palm-nut vulture named Severus.

Expect to see the long-legged burrowing owls fly to the front of the stage and flit from rock to rock. As their name suggests, they’ll burrow into holes carved into a piece of stone created for the set — a quick game of owl peek-a-boo that lets you get close enough to examine their minuscule yellow eyes.



Burrowing owls are native to Western North America and parts of South America. These owls were hatched and hand-raised at the National Aviary last year, but this will be their first flight before the general public.

Similarly premiering is the Aviary’s palm-nut vulture. And tomorrow, Severus will soar across the theater, showing off his nearly 6-foot wingspan. 

This bird isn’t your typical vulture. Rather than the archetypal all-black scavenger, dressed for a funeral and with a naked head and neck, this vulture is black and white with a white-feathered neck and head, and only its face pinkish-red. And rather than scavenging carcasses, palm-nut vultures, which are native to sub-Saharan African, stick mostly to a vegan diet of fruit from the oil palm.

Cathy Schlott, the Aviary's manager of animal training, said at today's press preview that the palm-nut vulture is uncommon in captivity.

“Only four institutions have them, so they’re really rare to see,” says Schlott.

This is much more than a bird-watching session, though.

Nature’s Voice utilizes theatrical lighting, sound, video and immersive set design to highlight the spectacle of live birds flying overhead.

“It really is a multisensory experience for the audience,” says Aviary spokesperson Robin Weber.

Nature’s Voice will be presented daily at 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., except on Tuesdays, when the birds are resting. The show is open to the public beginning Friday, Jan. 8. In addition to the cost of general admission, tickets for the program are $5 each.

The National Aviary is located at 700 Arch St., on the North Side.

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