Duolingo names National Aviary owlet, announces sponsorship of owl habitat | TribLIVE.com
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Duolingo names National Aviary owlet, announces sponsorship of owl habitat

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Amanda Andrews | For the Tribune-Review
Christa Gaus, manager of visitor experiences and training at the National Aviary, hold Duo, a spectacled owl on Thursday, Oct. 3, 2019.
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Amanda Andrews | For the Tribune-Review
Ted Bartlett, Ted Bartlett, the manager of philanthropy for the National Aviary, stands with Michaela Kron, senior public relations manager at Duolingo, at an event at the National Aviary on Thursday.

Duolingo’s green owl mascot has a friend.

The Pittsburgh tech company and the National Aviary announced Thursday that a 6-month-old spectacled owl at the North Side bird sanctuary will be named Duo, after the startup that offers free web- and app-based language learning classes.

Duolingo will also be the first official corporate sponsor for the Burrowing Owl Habitat at the National Aviary.

“If you think about it, our organizations aren’t much different from one another. Yes, while the content and the actual way we go about accomplishing our objectives may be different, both Duolingo and the National Aviary strive to educate and expand the horizons of people in a fun and engaging way,” Ted Bartlett, the manager of philanthropy for the National Aviary, said during an event Thursday to announce the name of the owl and Duolingo’s partnership. “Whether it’s seeing a bird of prey, or learning to communicate with someone in a new language, we both act to inspire and teach those around us.”

Duolingo got to choose the name of the owlet. The company did not disclose the amount of money involved in the sponsorship.

Duo will be an “ambassador” for her species and Duolingo. With enough training, Duo will greet visitors to the National Aviary and may even be sent out to classrooms.

The spectacled owl is named for its appearance. The owls have two white rings around their eyes, making them look like they are wearing spectacles. The other spectacled owl at the aviary is named Franklin — after Benjamin Franklin, who is credited with inventing spectacles.

Duo came to the National Aviary from a zoo when she was about 3 months old. The owls are native to the rain forests of South and Central America, an area not typically associated with owls.

Michaela Kron, senior public relations manager at Duolingo, reached out to the National Aviary about a potential partnership early this summer after a visit there in March.

“I saw the Burrowing Owl Habitat … and it occurred to me, ‘Hey, Duolingo’s mascot is an owl. The aviary has owls. We’re both Pittsburgh-based organizations. It might be cool to do something, at least explore how we might partner,’ ” Kron said. “So that’s kind of where it stemmed from. It took just a couple months to get in contact and reach out, but I’m so glad that we did.”

The habitat is not a new feature of the aviary, and Barlett said it’s been a popular destination for visitors.

Bartlett encouraged people to come in six months from now to see Duo, as her white head will not look the same as it does now.

“She’s still a juvenile, so her coloration will change,” Bartlett said. “So it’s going to be really cool for people to come to the aviary as members or donors or just general visitors from time to time to see the progression of Duo — to meet Duo again, almost.”

Amanda Andrews is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

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