Sara Hallager

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 11 animal professionals care for a diverse and growing collection of birds. She has over 30 years of experience with avian management and husbandry in a zoological setting.

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 $65 million, first-of-its-kind experience that involves the renovation of the Zoo's historic 1928 Bird House. She and her staff will rededicate 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 programs, including the Struthioniformes Taxon Advisory Group and the kori bustard Species Survival Program, and co-chairs the North American songbird SAFE program. She served for six years as chair of the AZA Avian Scientific Advisory Group. She is an active member of IUCN’s Bustard Specialist Group and an advocate for ratite conservation. In addition, Hallager works closely with Conservation Centers for Species Survival, where she helps lead a multifaceted 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.

Recent Publications:

  • Hutchins, M., Marra, P., Diebold, E., Kreger, M., Hallager, S. and Lynch, C. 2018. The evolving role of zoological parks and aquariums in migratory bird conservation. Zoo Biology 37(5): 360-368
  • Marrow, J., Hallager, S., Sander, S., Sander, W., Hanselmann, R. and Murray, S. 2018. Comparison of Serum Iron, Total Iron Binding Capacity and Percent Saturation in Wild and Captive kori bustards (Ardeotis kori). Journal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine 49 (2), 450-453.
  • Smith L, Hallager S, Kendrick E, Hope K, Danner RM. 2018. Husbandry of wild-caught song sparrows (Melospiza melodia). Zoo Biology 37 (4): 206-209.
  • Patil, P., Rahmani, A. and Hallager, S. 2013. Behavioural Ethogram of the Great Indian Bustard Ardeotis nigriceps (Vigors) 1831. Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society 110(1): 22-34.
  • Hanselmann R, Hallager S, Murray S, Mazet J. 2013. Causes of Morbidity and Mortality in Captive Kori Bustards (Ardeotis kori) in the United States. Journal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine 44(2): 348–363.
  • Penfold, L., Hallager, S., Boylan, J., de Wit, M., Metrione, L. and Oliva, M. 2013. Differences in Fecal Androgen Patterns of Breeding and Nonbreeding Kori Bustards (Ardeotis kori). Zoo Biology 32 [1]: 54-62.