Archive for the 'Birds' Category

Animal Update – February 7

national aquarium animal update

New Boat-Billed Herons in the Rain Forest! 

Two boat-billed herons, transported to Baltimore from the Buffalo Zoo, have been introduced into our Upland Tropical Rain Forest exhibit!

national aquarium boat-billed heron

Boat-billed herons are found in forested areas near water from Mexico to Argentina.  These stocky birds feed mostly on fish, invertebrates, and small amphibians.

Did you know? The large characteristic beak that gives the bird it’s name is used for both food gathering and for social signaling between other members of the species!

 Both of our herons are females, estimated to be about six-years-old. Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at one of our herons getting a quick exam before going on exhibit:

national aquarium heron exam

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

Aussie Week: A National Symbol Is So Cute, It’s Laughable

national aquarium australia day

Every year on January 26, Aussies around the world celebrate Australia Day! This national holiday marks the anniversary of the 1788 arrival of the first fleet of British ships to Sydney Cove. 

In addition to our annual event in Animal Planet Australia: Wild Extremes this Sunday, we’ll be celebrating Australia Day with special posts on WATERblog all week long! 

Day Two: Meet the Laughing Kookaburra

The laughing kookaburra is Australia’s national symbol. One of four known species of kookaburra, it is the only species that is recognized for its laugh-like call. Laughing kookaburras make a variety of call sounds, which are used for everything from courtship to marking territory.

national aquarium laughing kookaburra

FUN FACT: The call of the kookaburra is commonly used in movies to imitate the sound of monkeys in a jungle!

The kookaburra is a brown-colored bird, about the size of a crow, easily recognized by its very large bill. Males can be distinguished from females by the blue hues on their wing feathers and the darker blue on their tail feathers. Females have a small bit of blue on their wing feathers, but no blue on their tail feathers.

national aquarium laughing kookaburra

Laughing kookaburras are found throughout the eucalyptus forests of eastern Australia, the southwest corner of Western Australia, Tasmania, Flinders Island and Kangaroo Island.

These birds are the largest members of the kingfisher family. Contrary to what their family name suggests, laughing kookaburras rarely eat fish! Instead, they prefer to feed on insects, frogs, birds, rodents and reptiles.

The laughing kookaburra has been the subject of many Aboriginal legends over the years. Many tribes believed that the bird’s early morning call was a signal to the sky gods to once again illuminate and warm the Earth.

Stay tuned for more Australia Week posts and join the conversation online using #AussieWeek!

Baby Puffin Update: Exhibit Exploration & General Cuteness

We’re happy to report that the puffin chick that recently hatched at the Aquarium continues to do well!

national aquarium puffin chick

After spending close to 45 days tucked within its nesting burrow, our baby puffin emerged in early September and began to explore our Sea Cliffs exhibit.

Did you know? Atlantic puffin chicks are known to develop rather quickly! In the wild, they’re fully-fledged and ready to leave their parents after only six weeks.

DNA testing has confirmed that our chick is in fact female! Staff and visitors alike can easily identify our chick by her small, gray bill. It may take two or more years for the bright colors and large triangular bill, what’s commonly seen in mature puffins, to develop.

national aquarium puffins

Stay tuned for more updates on our baby puffin! 

Happy 25th Birthday, Margaret!

National Aquarium is celebrating a very special birthday today: Margaret, our blue hyacinth macaw, is turning 25!

With the help of our Animal Programs staff, Margaret started her day off with a special enrichment surprise:

national aquarium hyacinth macaw

Hyacinth macaws are one of the largest species of parrot – they are typically 40 inches in length and can have a wingspan of up to 5 feet! They’re on of the few species of parrot that can even mimic human speech. Margaret can say “Hello” (and she loves to say it a lot!) and is learning to say her name!

national aquarium hyacinth macaw

Did you know? Hyacinth macaws have beaks specially designed for cracking the hardest nuts in the world, the Brazil nut!

In addition to a powerful beak, Margaret has some pretty powerful and nimble feet that help her climb trees, hold food and even play with toys (or in today’s case, rip through a present box filled with newspaper and treats!).

national aquarium hyacinth macaw

Hyacinth macaws can be found in parts of Brazil, eastern Bolivia, and northeastern Paraguay. Unlike most parrots that prefer tropical rain forest habitats, this species of macaw usually makes its home in lightly forested areas such as palm swamps and flooded grasslands! At the Aquarium, you can see Margaret during our Animal Encounters throughout the day.

Can’t stop by in person to wish Margaret a happy birthday? Leave her a note in the comments section or on our Facebook page

Four Blue-Crowned Motmot Chicks Have Hatched in the Rain Forest

animal expert update

Our pair of blue-crowned motmots has produced four chicks! This is the second successful brood for the pair (who produced their first set of chicks in 2011).

blue crowned motmot chick
Blue-crowned motmots are neo-tropical birds known for their unusual nesting behaviors. Parent birds excavate long tunnels into the earth where they lay their eggs and raise their offspring.

Our resident pair of motmots are often seen working on a burrow within the rainforest exhibit. Earlier this summer, we were excited to learn that the pair was raising chicks in their most recent burrow! It is impossible for exhibit staff to see what is going on underground, so our team is left to interpret the behavior of both adults to infer what’s happening. When only one motmot is present during our morning bird inventory, we can assume that the adults are taking turns incubating their eggs. When we observe the adult birds carrying food into the tunnel, it’s likely that a chick has hatched!

blue crowned motmot chicks

This feeding pattern continues for about four weeks, with the amount of food being brought back escalating as the chicks grow. After the four week period, the baby motmots emerge from the tunnel fully feathered, able to fly and nearly the size of an adult!

Stay tuned for more updates on our chicks!

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