Saturday, March 14, 2009

Construction Of Penguin Point Underway At National Aviary

Construction Of Penguin Point Underway At National Aviary

By Laura Ellis

Pittsburgh, PA - Construction of Penguin Point, the National Aviary’s new 2,300 square-foot African penguin exhibit, is underway and a grand opening celebration is planned for May 23 when the public will see the penguins in their new home for the first time.

Penguin Point will afford up-close, 360-degree views of African penguins swimming, playing, nesting and scaling rocks in an open-air space. A wheelchair accessible Kids ViewTube under the exhibit will offer underwater views of the penguins as they dive, swim and “fly” through the pool, while domed bubbles allow young guests the chance to pop up in the middle of the penguin group.

The $1.7 million exhibit is being designed by Peckham Guyton Albers & Viets, Inc. of St. Louis (PGAV).

“Our penguins are decidedly our most popular residents, but the Aviary has never had a public exhibit space to accommodate them,” says National Aviary executive director Pat Mangus. “Until now, the only opportunity for guests to enjoy these remarkable birds has been through shows and educational presentations. With this new exhibit, visitors will find themselves in the midst of what will feel like an actual penguin colony, with all the arguing, jostling and playing that you would see in the wild.”

The penguin exhibit is the first of 10 new exhibits that are part of a $23 million expansion and renovation of the National Aviary that includes a FliteZoneTM theater for indoor bird shows, a green roof for raptor flight demonstrations, a Café and new classrooms. The National Aviary’s overall reconstruction, including expanded building wings and new façades, is a project of SPRINGBOARD Architecture Communication Design LLC of Pittsburgh; the FliteZoneTM Theater, the Rooftop Raptor Encounter theater and new interior exhibit spaces have been designed by PGAV.

“Creating a penguin exhibit was a priority for us, not only because of the appeal of these birds, but also because of their rapidly declining wild populations,” says National Aviary Board Chair Mike Flinn. “This exhibit will provide a compelling forum for educating visitors about these birds and the need for all of us to take conservation action.”

Penguin Point Fun Facts

Recruiting the team…
The National Aviary is currently home to five penguins: Stanley, Simon, Patrick, Elvis and Sidney – but up to 10 additional penguins will be recruited for the new exhibit.

Penguins in their midst…
Once they enter Penguin Point, guests will find themselves outdoors in the midst of a mini penguin colony where birds dive and torpedo their way through the acrylic-fronted pool. Guests who move to the back of the exhibit will be nearly nose to beak with penguins perched on the rock wall, while those who enter the Kids ViewTube can see the birds’ antics from all directions

So that’s why they call them jackass penguins…
African penguins have several official names, including black-footed penguin and yes, jackass penguin, the latter due to their honking braying call that sounds remarkably like a donkey.

An egg-cellent view…
Penguin Point will include several built-in nesting cubbies. In time, the National Aviary plans to breed select members of the group, and guests will have the opportunity to watch the eggs hatch and the chicks develop. Once hatched, the chicks will be fed regurgitated food by both parents.

0-0-Penguin: The Ocean is Not Enough
In the 1920s there were over one million African penguins in existence. Today there are only about 100,000 of these birds left in the wild, and African penguins are poised to be placed on the Endangered Species List. Over fishing, loss of nesting sites and pollution due to human population growth, together with chronic oil spills, are the main causes of their ongoing, rapid decline. The National Aviary is a participant in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) African Penguin Species Survival Plan, a carefully monitored breeding program that seeks to preserve healthy, genetically diverse populations of African penguins.

For more information, call 412.323.7235 or visit

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 comprises more than 600 birds from around the world, many of them threatened or endangered in the wild. The National Aviary’s large walk-through exhibits allow for intimate, up-close interactions between visitors and free-flying birds, including opportunities to hand-feed and meet many species rarely found in zoos anywhere else in the world. Programming includes indoor and outdoor free-flight bird shows, preschool and children’s activities, and educational presentations

National Aviary
700 Arch Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15212 / 412.323.7235

Story and image courtesy of Zoo and Aquarium Visitor @

No comments: