The National Aviary on Pittsburgh’s Northside held its annual Owl Brunch on Sunday, Oct. 21. Featured bird guests at the brunch were an Eastern screech owl, a spectacled owl and a Eurasian eagle-owl.

Story and photos by Melissa Yang

The National Aviary hosted its annual Owl Brunch on Sunday, October 21, drawing well over one hundred visitors between the two seatings at 10:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.

Aviary Events Manager Laura Daversa believes owls are fashionable year-round, but said everyone goes “full owl mode around Halloween,” making this event a popular fall attraction. Owl enthusiasts of all ages gathered around tables set with fresh flower centerpieces in the heated Rose Garden Tent and a backdrop of string lights and upbeat contemporary tunes brightened the scene. Guests were greeted by a seasonal antipasti station with assorted hors d’oeuvres, along with ample beverage selections.

The main meal featured a robust array of entrees crafted and cooked in-house with local ingredients, by award-winning chef Josef Karst and his Atria’s team. They offered diverse entrees to satisfy every palate, from a savory quiche with heirloom tomato and spinach to a seared Atlantic salmon with a creamy mustard dill sauce. The rich chicken tinga enchiladas were a hit, and a personal favorite of the chef’s. French toast and pastries with fruit, syrup and marmalades were available to satisfy those with a sweet tooth.

The event’s featured stars were three wide-eyed owls who captured the hearts of diners as they made their rounds at each table, accompanied by their Education Trainers, Mike Faix and Jamie Travitz. The first bird to appear was the tiny but full-grown Eastern screech owl named Cedar, hardly bigger than Faix’s gloved hand. The second was the larger spectacled owl named Franklin. The name of this tropical species is derived from the unique markings on the bird’s face, explained Travitz, while this specific owl was named for Benjamin Franklin, the Founding Father who invented bifocals. The final avian guest was Dumbledore, an enormous Eurasian eagle-owl named for Harry Potter’s headmaster, Professor Albus Dumbledore.

The trainers reminded brunch guests not to be fooled by the stereotype of “wise old owls.” Given the size of their giant eyes, owls have rather small brains—meaning their vision is sharper than their intellect.

The Aviary hosts a variety of brunches and events throughout the year, each featuring feathered friends. Don’t miss Owl-o-Ween, the Aviary’s annual harvest festival, this Saturday, October 27, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., and Brunch with Santa on Sunday, December 9. Two seatings are available for brunch: 10:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Reservations include general admission to all regular National Aviary exhibits, a craft kit for children and photos opportunities with Santa and a penguin. Space is limited: To register, call 412-258-9445. For more information, visit

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