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Kodiak, the escaped eagle, gets a new roost — and a stronger enclosure — at the National Aviary

Kodiak the Steller's sea eagle relaxes in his newly renovated enclosure at the National Aviary.
Julia Zenkevich
90.5 WESA
Kodiak the Steller's sea eagle relaxes in his newly renovated enclosure at the National Aviary.

A new, updated habitat for Kodiak, the Steller’s sea eagle who escaped from the National Aviary last fall, was unveiled on Friday.

In what staff called a “highly unusual” situation, Kodiak, also known as Kody, got out through a small gap in the wire mesh roof of his enclosure. He was located in Pine Township nearly a week after he went missing. Aviary staff used “professional falconry techniques and equipment” to lure him back.

Kody has been living in a behind-the-scenes habitat while his enclosure was rebuilt “from the ground up.”

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The new habitat is about 3 feet taller and 3 feet wider than the old version and includes “weather resistant” walls, rocks and platforms for perching, a pond and misting system for bathing and playing, and an overhang to provide shade. It also sports new pine, dogwood, birch, and fir trees and shrubbery.

After months of delay due to supply chain issues, the habitat got a new steel chain link roof that’s twice as strong as the old roof.

Kody’s neighbors, two Bald Eagles named Flinn and Independence, also received a new and improved habitat.

“These habitat updates were made with the safety and comfort of all of our birds in mind,” said Cathy Schlott, the National Aviary’s director of animal programs and experiences. “And they provide opportunities to express their natural behaviors.”

The birds were introduced to their new homes earlier this week. Schlott said they’re enjoying the new enclosures.

“We’re seeing behaviors like playing and exploring and eating and just overall enjoying their new habitats that are showing us how they’re thriving.”

Schlott said birds of prey exhibit specific body language that lets animal behavior experts know they’re relaxed. They ball up their feet and sit back at an angle, like they’re relaxing on a couch.

“The eagles are demonstrating that relaxed pose in the new eagle habitats as well,” she said.

Kody has not had any changes in temperament or behavior since he returned to the Aviary, Schlott said.

“He’s the same Kodiak. He’s very engaged in his surroundings; he’s very inquisitive.”

Aviary staff said they have a standard operating procedure to respond should another bird escape, but every situation is different. The materials in Kody’s habitat are “state of the art” and the enclosure was designed to prevent future escape attempts.

“That situation was highly unlikely to happen, and so we don’t anticipate that happening again,” Schlott said.

Now that Kody is safely back in his enclosure, Schlott hopes people will learn more about Steller’s sea eagles and other threatened and endangered birds at the Aviary.

“Kody is very special to the staff and visitors who come visit the National Aviary,” she said, noting that he’s an “important ambassador species.” Steller’s sea eagles are vulnerable to threats such as overfishing, pollution and climate change. Bald Eagles almost went extinct in the 1970s and still face threats today.

“Now that they are back in their homes, we are thrilled to welcome visitors to the National Aviary to come and see these beautiful new habitats and welcome Kodiak and Flinn and Independence into their new homes,” Schlott said.

The habitats reopened to the public on Friday, May 20, at 10 a.m.

Julia Zenkevich reports on Allegheny County government for 90.5 WESA. She first joined the station as a production assistant on The Confluence, and more recently served as a fill-in producer for The Confluence and Morning Edition. She’s a life-long Pittsburgher, and attended the University of Pittsburgh. She can be reached at