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African penguins are seen at the National Aviary in early June. This season’s theme is Journey to Africa.

A palm-nut vulture soars above guests seated in the Helen M. Schmidt FliteZone Theater.

From the corner of the room, an owl exits its cage, flies across the room, and sits perched high on a branch.

A red-billed hornbill takes its place on an elevated platform. A gray-crowned crane comes out and wraps its large back toes around a tree branch.

The next minute an African penguin waddles by.

And to finish off the 20-minute performance, a turquoise-fronted Amazon parrot collects monetary donations in its beak and deposits the dollar bills into a container.

These are real experiences in “African Adventure,” part of Journey to Africa at the National Aviary on Pittsburgh’s North Side.

The immersive bird show and daily activities featuring birds found across the African continent are the latest attractions. It runs through Sept. 6.

Journey to Africa, which runs through the end of the year, will introduce guests to explore a variety of the feathered animals — from vultures and cranes to penguins and hornbills.

They are trained to do this in small steps, which works well with the animals, said Cathy Schlott, director of animal programs and experiences at the aviary. It takes about six months to develop this type of performance, she said.

The theater is renovated for each show.

Journey to Africa offers a chance to take a trip to a fa-away destination and experience amazing wildlife without leaving Pittsburgh, Schlott said.

“We know each animal and their individual, natural behaviors,” said Schlott. “They learn via positive reinforcements. I think people leave here with a greater appreciation of animals and respect what they can do.”

There are two shows a day at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. They use multiple birds in shows.

Through video footage, thematic music and live birds, the experience highlights the diverse wildlife and habitats of the continent. Guests learn about the conservation challenges facing birds, and how they can help. An aviary expert explains the roles these birds play in preserving healthy ecosystems.

“We know the birds well,” she said. “We know their personalities and what they are capable of doing. They are intelligent animals. For this show, you really need to be here to really experience this. You get experiences here you can’t get anywhere else.”

Guests can also meet either a martial eagle or golden eagle in the Eagles of Africa talk at 3 p.m. daily. One of the golden eagles, Martha, was injured. She can’t survive on her own in the wild so she’s living at the aviary. The 8-pound bird is still very strong. She has an eight-foot wing span.

Handlers wear special gloves that are triple in thickness.

The African Adventure show is an additional $5, purchased at aviary.

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