Archive for the 'Birds' Category



Animal Updates – April 5

Between our Baltimore and Washington, DC, venues, more than 17,500 animals representing 900 species call the National Aquarium home. There are constant changes, additions, and more going on behind the scenes that our guests may not notice during their visit. We want to share these fun updates with our community so we’re bringing them to you in our weekly Animal Update posts!

Check our blog every Friday to find out what’s going on… here’s what’s new this week!

It’s breeding season for the Puffins and Alcids! 

Yesterday, staff performed a routine deep cleaning of our puffin exhibit to prepare it for the upcoming breeding season! The process of cleaning the exhibit thoroughly is extensive. First, the exhibit is drained completely and given a disinfectant treatment.

staff cleaning puffin exhibit

Then, staff scrub each rock and crevice by hand – cleaning the exhibit by hand gives staff the opportunity to inspect it for any needed repairs. Finally, the area is hosed down and filled once again with 6,500 gallons of chilly brackish water!

staff cleaning puffin exhibit

While the exhibit is being scrubbed down, our birds are behind-the-scenes being given their routine veterinary exam – which includes health checks and weigh-ins.

puffins behind-the-scenes

This most recent scrub and vet. check will be the last until the breeding season ends in September!

Be sure to check back every Friday to find out what’s happening!

National Aquarium at the TEDxDeExtinction Conference!

On March 15th, researchers and theorists from around the world gathered at the National Geographic Society in Washington, DC to discuss the real possibility of bringing species like the woolly mammoth, the passenger pigeon and the Cuban red macaw back from extinction. This first-ever TEDxDeExtinction conference was considered to be the global introduction to a new field in conservation biology, “de-extinction.” By closely examining the DNA of museum specimens, this emerging field of scientists hopes to incorporate the genes responsible for certain traits of the extinct species into the genome of a similar species.

During Friday’s talk, National Aquarium staff and our blue hyacinth macaw, Margaret, were on hand to talk to the 500+ attendees about the immediate changes we can make as a global society to PREVENT species extinction. As exciting as this new concept is, scientists have also voiced concern that de-extinction will distract from the conservation of species like the hyacinth macaw.

TED prize winner Sylvia Earle stopped by to say hello to Margaret during Friday's event.

TED prize winner Sylvia Earle stopped by to say hello to Margaret during Friday’s event.

Native to the Patanal region of South America, hyacinth macaws are an endangered species. Similar to the Cuban red macaw – one of the species being discussed on stage as a candidate for de-extinction – habitat loss, local hunting practices and the pet trade are all factors contributing to the decline of hyacinth macaw populations in the wild. Unfortunately, more than a century after the extinction of the Cuban red macaw, birds like Margaret are still facing these human-imposed challenges to survival.

Margaret, now 24 years old, came to our organization from a private home. As is the case with many exotic pets, pet owners under-estimate size (from head to the tip of her tail, Margaret is about 3 ft. long!) and cost of care and eventually, can no longer care for the animal. Luckily, Margaret’s previous owner worked with the Aquarium to find her a good home. Margaret is now an advocate for the preservation of her species and others like her!

Stay tuned for more updates on TEDxDeExtinction! 

Join Us for the Great Backyard Bird Count This Weekend!

This weekend  marks the 16th annual Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC)! This four-day event from February 15 to 18 engages communities across the country in bird watching and also provides researchers with valuable snapshots of how different populations are doing. 

Why counting birds is important
Scientists and bird enthusiasts can learn a lot by knowing where birds are. Bird populations are dynamic and constantly in flux. This makes it very difficult for a single scientist or team to document and understand the behaviors and migrations of the many species that live in the United States.

Researchers can use information collected during the GBBC to better understand how environmental changes are impacting bird populations.

According to national organizer the Audubon Society, participants turned in more than 104,000 online checklists last year, creating the continent’s largest instantaneous snapshot of bird populations ever recorded! Let’s DOUBLE that number this year!

How YOU can participate
Everyone is welcome (from first-time watchers to experts) to participate over the weekend. Birding is an easy way to spend time as a family and connect with nature in a way that “counts”! Participating in this weekend’s count is as easy as creating an account on GBBC’s website and counting birds in your backyard for at least 15 minutes.

To help make the most of this experience, National Aquarium will be offering bird count activities throughout the weekend to get visitors of all ages interested in birding! 

Highlights of activities happening at our Baltimore venue this weekend include:

  • Bird Watching 101 Station: Stop by the Overlook to learn how to use binoculars, spotting scopes and bird field guides! After learning how to use these tools, guests will have the opportunity to identify different birds in the Inner Harbor. We’ll be handing out ID guides and checklists so you can participate in the count after your visit. 
  • Birding in Animal Planet Australia and the Upland Tropical Rain Forest: Guests will be given ID guides for the species of birds living in both exhibits. After you’ve tried your hand at birding, stick around for presentations from staff in both exhibits on the many species we have in our living collections!

    Keep your eyes peeled while walking through our Australia exhibit for our tawny frogmouth! He's a camouflage expert!

    Keep your eyes peeled while walking through our Australia exhibit for our tawny frogmouth! He’s a camouflage expert!

  • Bird-Themed Animal Encounters: Now that you can spot them like a pro, get up close and personal with some of our bird residents and learn even more about the different species and what can be done to save these amazing creatures!

So, what are you waiting for? Get out there and start counting!

Do you have a favorite species of bird you’re hoping to spot this weekend? Tell us in the comments or join the conversation on Twitter using #GBBC!  

Animal Updates – February 15

Between our Baltimore and Washington, DC, venues, more than 17,500 animals representing 900 species call the National Aquarium home. There are constant changes, additions, and more going on behind the scenes that our guests may not notice during their visit. We want to share these fun updates with our community so we’re bringing them to you in our weekly Animal Update posts!

Check our blog every Friday to find out what’s going on… here’s what’s new this week!

New Finches in our Animal Planet Australia: Wild Extremes

We have new star and black-crowned finches on exhibit! Both species are native to Australia and prefer to make their homes in the dry grassland and savanna areas of the continent.

star finch

Star finches are easily recognized by their bright red “face masks.” Males typically have larger masks than females.

The next time you’re walking through our Australia exhibit, be sure to listen closely to the sounds coming from above! Male star finches in particular have a very interesting song (click here to hear an example)!

AnimalUpdated_DC

Brittle Star in our Gulf of Farallones National Marine Sanctuary gallery! 

We have a new brittle star on exhibit!

brittle star

Brittle stars are also known as serpent stars!

There are more than 1,500 species of brittle stars. They can be found in most parts of the world, from the Arctic waters to the tropics. Instead of crawling on hundreds of tube feet like starfish, brittle stars move by wriggling their long, serpent-like limbs!

Be sure to check back every Friday to find out what’s happening!

Thoughtful Thursdays: Will You Be Our Valentine?

This Valentine’s Day, we’ve rounded up a list of the Aquarium’s most “romantic” animals! From seabirds that co-parent to seahorses that hold tails, learn how these marine animals show love:

French Angelfish

french angelfish

Ah, the French. (Known for their romantic flair both above and under water!)

French angelfish form a monogamous bond that lasts as long as both fish are alive. They live, travel and hunt in their pair. If a mature french angelfish is seen alone, it’s usually because their mate has passed away, they never look for a new one.

Clownfish

clownfish

Clownfish also mate for life. The male and his mate will live together (in the anemone or reef crevice of their choice) and aggressively guard their eggs until they hatch.

Seahorses

longsnout seahorses

Seahorses have a very intimate courtship, they hold tails, swim snout-to-snout and engage in a courtship dance. Once the male seahorse is pregnant (yes, the male carries the eggs to term), the female visits him every morning and holds his tail. They also mate for life.

Barramundi

barramundi

Barramundi perform a love dance during mating. Every year, the barramundi return to their birthplace to spawn (they also only mate during a full moon). Many Australian myths claim these fish have special aphrodisiac qualities. It’s because of that belief that they’re colloquially  known as “passion fish.”

Scarlet Ibis

scarlet ibis

To attract a female, the male scarlet ibis performs a complex array of mating rituals (including a shaking dance and head rubbing). After a successful courtship, the female will lay eggs and the pair will both watch over the eggs and co-parent their young. Scarlet ibises mate for life!

Puffins

puffins

Puffins also form long-term pair bonds. The female lays a single egg and both parents incubate it and feed the “puffling” once it hatches. Puffins will often return to the same nesting site every year.

Happy Valentine’s Day! How are you celebrating today? Tell us in the comments! 


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