Posts Tagged 'puffins'



Love is in the water

Over the years, many have met their mates at the National Aquarium – and we don’t just mean the animals! There is just something about this place that makes people fall in love. From visitors on first dates, to couples getting engaged or tying the knot in front of our exhibits, to staff members falling for each other, love is always in the air. But with more than 16,000 animals living at the Aquarium, love is also in the water!

In honor of the upcoming holiday we humans created to celebrate love, we thought it would be fun to share some tales of animal dating, er, mating at the Aquarium. It’s no secret that the dolphins at the National Aquarium like to reproduce. Since the dolphin pavilion opened in 1999, we’ve had 13 dolphin births. But dolphins aren’t the only animals at the Aquarium with routine mating habits.

The stingrays in our Wings in the Water exhibit are a busy bunch of animals! Over the last few years, dozens of cownose and southern stingray pups have been born in the exhibit. The southern stingrays were reproducing so quickly that the males had to be separated from the females! And apparently there is one female cownose ray that the males find particularly attractive.

And did you know male and female seahorses dance, change color and lock tails for a short swim during courtship? Talk about romantic! After mating, it is the male seahorses that become pregnant and rear the young. They are nature’s true Mr. Moms! Just last January, one of our male seahorses delivered a tiny group of babies into the world.

Frogs and toads do a song and dance to attract their mates! They were the first vocal land-dwellers that use voice almost exclusively to attract a mate. Each species has its own distinctive voice so females do not waste time following the call of another species. Once a female dart frog finds a singing male of her species, he stops singing and initiates a courtship dance! Some species spin in a circle, while others gently stroke the female’s back with his forelegs. If she accepts his advances, she will follow him to an egg-laying site.

Turtles have a ritual of their own. Many aquatic species of turtles are sexually dimorphic (when the male and female of a species look different) in size, and in some cases, males may be half the size of females. The smaller males often have to use elaborate courtship displays in order to romance the females. This could involve swimming ahead of the female and gently stroking her head and neck with the claws of his front feet, or bobbing his head up and down rapidly. We see these behaviors at the Aquarium between Australian red-faced side-necked turtles.

Perhaps the most unusual mating fact is found in the fishes! Some species of fish undergo a sex change as they grow so they can experience mating and reproduction as a male and a female! The California sheepshead, found in our Kelp Forest exhibit, begins life as a female with pink coloration. When it grows to a length of about 18 inches, it transforms into a male.

We should point out that most species of animals pair up with multiple mates throughout their lives, simply for reproduction purposes. But monogamy can exist in the animal kingdom! Our sweetest tale of animal mating at the Aquarium can be found in the Sea Cliffs exhibit. Like many species of birds, puffins are known to form pair bonds, and can remain in those bonds for life. That has certainly been the case for two young adult puffins living at the National Aquarium. It seems as though these two birds were made for each other…

Victor and Vixen came to the National Aquarium in April of 2004 with two other females. Victor had his choice of ladies, but it wasn’t long before he found a match in Vixen. They had their first egg in 2005 but it turned out to be infertile, which is common for many young couples. Just a year later, they had their first chick, Princess, who still lives at the Aquarium, and just last year they came together to raise their second chick, Vinnie. They are great parents. Last year they fed Vinnie so much that he became quite the chunker!

Though they will probably stay paired for life, these birds aren’t on cloud nine all year round. Puffins in the wild usually come together in pairs only to breed, and then separate until the next breeding season. Even though our birds live in the same area year round, the same rule applies. Come spring, Victor and Vixen will start staking their claim on their burrow (they always use the same one on the far left side of the exhibit) by chasing the other birds away!

On any given day you could catch a glimpse of animals mating at the Aquarium. We sure have! Years ago our video team was able to capture amazing footage of two seahorses completing their mating process. What you’ll see below is a quick glimpse of how a female seahorse transfers eggs to the male!

Name our puffin chick!

At just 2 months old, our male puffin chick is looking more and more like the adult puffins each day! It is now time to give him a proper name. With the help of Aquarium staff and the public, we have narrowed down the suggestions to five solid puffin names. It is now up to our friends and followers to NAME THAT PUFFIN!

Cast your vote today! Voting will close on Tuesday, September 7, at 11:59 p.m. EDT. The puffin’s new name will be revealed live on WMAR Ch. 2 News on September 9.

TEXT your favorite name choice to 30644 (msg and data rates may apply), or vote online below:

Want to learn more about puffins? Join us for Morning With the Puffins: Curator Talk on September 25 from 7:45-9 a.m.

Explore our newly renovated puffin exhibit and learn more about its feathered occupants during a morning talk with one of our respected curators. Light breakfast fare will be provided and is included in the price. Reservations are required. Please call 410-727-3474 to make reservations. The cost is $8 for members and $30 for non-members (includes admission). Children under 3 are free.

Check out a video of the chick when he was just a tiny hatchling:

Name our new puffin chick!

On June 24, we welcomed the arrival of a puffin hatchling! This was just the second successful puffin chick to hatch at the National Aquarium. During breeding season, puffins lay only one egg in a clutch. If that egg is crushed or infertile, they may replace the egg, but generally puffins lay just one egg and raise one chick a year. puffin chick

The Atlantic puffin hatched after a 37-day incubation period. During that time, the parents–named Victor and Vixen–took turns incubating the egg by nestling it between their body and wing to keep it warm. Upon hatching, the chick weighed just 40 grams. For the first month, the parents cared for the chick in their burrow, while the Aquarium aviculturists monitored the chick’s growth and health carefully.

It is always best to keep young animals with their parents whenever possible. In this case, the parents did a great job helping the young chick grow and learn how to be a puffin! After one month, the chick weighed more than 350 grams and was eating 10-15 fish a day.

Continue reading ‘Name our new puffin chick!’

Puffins return to a new home

We are happy to share that the Sea Cliffs exhibit is back open and our feathered friends are adjusting nicely to their new home. This exhibit is home to our Atlantic puffins, razorbills and black guillemots and was closed this winter for renovations.

The actual layout of the exhibit did not change as it was already well designed to recreate the birds’ natural nesting environment. The habitat includes rocky outcroppings and a pool that holds nearly 6,500 gallons of water. According to our animal care staff, the Aquarium puffins behave much the same as they would in a natural habitat.

Our exhibits and design team gave the habitat a much-needed polish and added new visual elements to the rocky land. Watch as our Atlantic puffins, razorbills, and black guillemots return from their short sabbatical into a new, and updated home!

Polishing the puffin exhibit

If you have visited the Aquarium recently, you’ve probably noticed that our popular Sea Cliffs Exhibit on level 4 is closed for renovations.  The Aquarium puffins, razorbills and black guillemots are taking a short sabbatical while our Exhibits and Design team gives their home a thorough clean and polish!

The birds have moved to special offsite quarters that maintain exhibit temperatures of 50°F, and water quality analysts monitor the temporary freshwater systems created for these little divers.

The Sea Cliffs exhibit is designed to recreate the birds’ natural nesting environment. It includes rocky outcroppings and a pool that holds nearly 6,500 gallons of water. According to our animal care staff, the Aquarium puffins behave much the same as they would in a natural habitat. The staff also add special enrichments to the exhibit that encourages the birds to play and interact with their habitat.

Check out the video below to see some of these enrichment activities, and be sure to enter our Fish Friday contest below!

Today is Fish Friday and we have another contest for our followers!

Name one of the enrichment items featured in the video that these birds can eat.

Please post your answer as a comment to this post by 5 p.m. EST today, January 22nd. Correct answers will be entered into a drawing for a puffin prize pack featuring two tickets to the National Aquarium and a puffin plush! The winner will be awarded on Monday, January 25th. Good luck!


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