National Aviary

Up Close and Fuzzy With a Baby Sloth

A baby Linnaeus’s Two-toed Sloth arrived at the National Aviary last week, and guests can get “up close and fuzzy” with the new arrival when he begins his role as an animal ambassador.

12715604_10154552237124278_154745630965409309_nPhoto Credit:  National Aviary


Born October 31, the baby Sloth is about 10 inches long and weighs about two pounds.  He’s already weaned from his mother, and the staff is feeding him every two hours.  He gets a daily check from the veterinary staff and daily weigh-ins to make sure he’s adjusting well to his new home. 

The little Sloth does not yet have a name, but aviary staff will give the public an opportunity to suggest names in a few weeks.

Dr. Fish, the aviary’s Director of Veterinary Medicine, says, “All baby Sloths stop nursing at around one month old. He is very strong, eating well, and meeting all his landmarks for a three-month-old Sloth. This age is the ideal time [to introduce him to our staff] because he is old enough and can start to bond with his caregivers. It is similar to puppies being adopted at 8 weeks old.” 

Keepers will begin teaching the Sloth to interact with people by using positive reinforcement and enrichment.  He will be able to choose his behaviors and be rewarded for positive actions.  In a few months, the baby Sloth will participate in daily encounters with aviary guests. 

Linnaeus’s Two-toed Sloths are native to South America, where they spend most of their lives in the rain forest canopy.  They are well-known for being slow-moving, a trait which is linked to their diet.  The leaves and buds that Sloths consume provide very little energy or nutrients and can take a month or more to digest.  Huge hooked claws are just right for hanging from tree branches.  Sloths descend to the ground only about once a week for toileting.  Otherwise, they eat, sleep and even have their babies while hanging from tree branches.

See more photos of the baby Sloth below.

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Penguin Chicks Make Public Debut at National Aviary


Just three-and-a-half weeks after tens of thousands of viewers watched them hatch and grow via streaming nest camera, the National Aviary’s African Penguin chicks made their public debut, on January 8th.


Chick 1 checking heart

Chick 2 on scalePhoto Credits: National Aviary

On the morning of January 6, 2015, the penguin chicks were moved indoors to the National Aviary’s AvianCareCenter. A check-up by National Aviary Veterinarian, Dr. Pilar Fish, confirmed that both chicks are doing well.

Both chicks will be hand-reared in the AvianCareCenter, part of the National Aviary’s bird hospital, by experienced National Aviary staff. This is the third pair of penguin chicks in three years hatched at the National Aviary to penguin parents ‘Sidney’ and ‘Bette’.

National Aviary visitors can see the chicks up-close through a viewing window into the AvianCareCenter. Every day through early February, visitors can watch the chicks being fed and cared for by staff.

The sex of the chicks is not yet known. During the chicks’ first medical exam in December, while they were still living in the nest, feather samples were collected for each chick. The sex of immature African Penguins can only be determined with DNA testing. Feathers were sent to a lab for analysis; it will be another week before results are known.

When the sex is known, the National Aviary will launch an online auction so members of the public can bid on the opportunity to name one of the penguins.

The first chick hatched on December 15 and today is 24 days old weighing 727 grams. The second chick hatched December 18 and today weighs 548 grams. African Penguin chicks grow quickly. They will double, or even triple their weight week by week.  By the time they reach full size, which takes about eight weeks, their weight will have increased by 2000%.

When these two chicks join the flock, the National Aviary’s Penguin Point exhibit will be home to nineteen African Penguins. African Penguins are a critically endangered species, with fewer than 20,000 remaining the wild. As part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums' (AZA) Species Survival Plan (SSP), the National Aviary’s penguins are part of an important breeding program to ensure a healthy population of African Penguins for future generations.

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Eurasian Eagle Owl Hatched at National Aviary

Owl hero

On March 13 this Eurasian Eagle Owl hatched at Pittsburgh's National Aviary, the only one of its species hatched at any AZA facility in the past five years. The newly-hatched chick weighed 49.5 grams to start and has developed beautifully, doubling in size in just five days. By one month of age she was standing, walking and stretching her wings, as well as beginning public appearances to serve as an ambassador for her species. DNA testing of the egg verified what the measurements predicted: the owl is a female.

The bird’s parents, named X and Dumbledore, serve as education birds, trained to free fly in shows and perch on a glove for group programs. On September 25, during X's break from performing, she was placed in an exhibit adjacent to Dumbledore for a two-month howdy period. They were introduced, and breeding behaviors were seen within six weeks of pairing. A total of three eggs were laid every other day, the first on February 7. Shortly before hatching, the fertile egg was removed from the nest to complete incubation for hand-rearing. Click HERE to read all the details of the fascinating hatching and rearing process. 

Owl side

Owl perch

Photo Credit: National Aviary

Eurasian Eagle-owls are the largest species of owl in the world and are found in North Africa, Europe, Asia and Middle East. Females, on average, are one third larger than the male. Males weigh 4- 5 ½ pounds, while a larger female can weigh close to 7 pounds. Their height ranges from 2 to 2 ½ feet tall, with a wingspan of approximately 5 ½ feet. 

See the owl on it's first TV show. Story and pictures continue after the jump:

The first television outing for the owlette was an appearance on Pittsburgh Today Live, where it perched for the first time. The baby did a great job educating people about the species, but all the activity brought on a little nap. 


Owl rest

Owl nap