Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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October 3, 2012

Frolic with your feathered friends at the National Aviary

Dave Zuchowski

CNHI News Service

On the way to feed the lorikeets at the National Aviary on Pittsburgh’s North Side, I passed Giggles, a laughing Kookaburra perched nonchalantly on a roost in her cage.

A member of the kingfisher family from Australia, Giggles didn’t live up to her name until a guide gave her an aural cue.

Then all hell broke loose.

The Kookaburra opened up with a long series of sounds so awesome, she made me chuckle with delight. Those who’ve seen the old Tarzan movies will recognize her call, which evokes the jungle.

Further on, I entered the lorikeet enclosure, saucer of nectar in hand. Before I could say holy parakeet, three of the colorful birds perched on my outstretched arm and bobbed their beaks into the sauce.

If you ever get to the National Aviary, one of the first things you should do after saying hello to Peanut, the scarlet macaw "greeter bird" with a 31-inch tail near the aviary entrance, is look at the daily schedule.

Each of the aviary’s three free flight areas, woodlands, tropical rainforest and wetlands, has daily feeding shows. You certainly want to catch one of the up-close penguin feedings, as well as the "Parrots of the Caribbean" show in the FliteZone Theater. To get everything in, good planning is essential.

From Memorial Day through Labor Day, you might want to visit the Skydeck on the roof to watch free-flying raptors like peregrine falcons, kites and Martial eagles do aerial gymnastics while trying to catch a lure tossed skyward by the staff.

According to Erika Douglas, marketing associate, the National Aviary got its start 60 years ago with a tropical rainforest installation. An expansion in 2010 added a glass-domed atrium as well as Penguin Point, a zoo-like installation with African penguins including Sidney (for Sidney Crosby, of the Pittsburgh Penguins), Patrick (for the hockey division in which the Penguins play), and Stanley (for the cup.)

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