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Sara Hallager

Curator of Birds

As curator of birds of the Smithsonian’s National Zoo, Sara Hallager oversees the bird collection in Washington, D.C. Hallager and her team of nine animal professionals care for a diverse and growing collection of birds. She has nearly 30 years’ experience with avian management and husbandry in a zoological setting. Hallager is a graduate of the Smithsonian's Emerging Leader Development Program.

Hallager serves as curator of birds with responsibility for the conception, goal-setting, planning, leadership and implementation of avian care on a daily basis, including: bird well-being, reproductive programs, conservation programs, exhibition, and interpretive public programs for the Zoo’s bird collection. She is currently helping to plan for “Experience Migration,” a major $55 million, first-of-its-kind experience that involves the renovation of the Zoo's historic 1928 Bird House. She and her staff will re-dedicate the historic Bird House's exhibits and interpretive programs exclusively to the story of migratory birds, with an emphasis on songbirds, waterfowl and shorebirds of the Americas.

Hallager serves as chair of several Association of Zoo and Aquariums (AZA) programs including the Struthioniformes Taxon Advisory Group and four Species Survival Programs (kori bustard, buff-crested bustard, red-legged seriema and greater roadrunner). She is a co-instructor for AZA’s Animal Transport Course and serves on the Annual Conference Planning Committee of AZA. She served for six years as chair of the AZA Avian Scientific Advisory Group. Her primary research interest centers on understanding the husbandry of kori bustards with application to other species of bustards. She is an active member of IUCN’s Bustard Specialist Group. She is an advocate for ratite conservation and is currently participating in efforts to reintroduce the North African ostrich in Niger. In addition, Hallager works closely with Conservation Centers for Species Survival, where she is helping to lead a multi-faceted conservation initiative on North American songbirds.  

A native of Wisconsin, Hallager moved to Washington, D.C. in 1984.  She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in zoology from University of Maryland, College Park. Hallager began her career at the Smithsonian's National Zoo in 1984 as a volunteer, and started working at the Zoo as an employee in 1987.  

Notable publications:

  • Hallager, S. and Lichtenberg, E.M. 2007. New Display Behavior in Male Kori Bustard (Ardeotis koristruthiunculus). The Wilson Journal of Ornithology 119(4): 750-755.
  • Hallager, S. 2005.  Breeding and hand-rearing the Kori bustard Ardeotis kori at the Smithsonian’s National Zoological Park, Washington, D.C. International Zoo Yearbook 39: 143-161.
  • Hallager, S. 2003. A description of copulation in the Kori Bustard Ardeotis kori struthiunculus. Bulletin British Ornithologist's Club 123(2): 125-129.