Archive for the 'Birds' Category

Animal Health Update: Margaret’s Annual Exam

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This Spring, I’ve been able to work with our Animal Programs staff and an amazing hyacinth macaw, Margaret, on some great voluntary behaviors.

Margaret has a strong history of working closely with her caretakers on what we call “husbandry” behaviors such as nail trims, stepping on and off items, showing the underside of her wings, and allowing us to listen to her heartbeat with a stethoscope. These husbandry behaviors make routine visits from our Vet staff easier, stress-free experiences for both the animal and our team.

Hycanith macaw Margaret

Training a complex voluntary behavior, like laying down for a blood draw, is done by breaking the final behavior down into smaller steps, in a process known as shaping.

We started with a behavior Margaret already knew how to do, referred to by our team as the “lay back,” where she lays her back down on a towel. Over the course of a few months, we worked with her hold her wing down flat and still and to let us touch around her vein, as well as put pressure on her wing over the vein and remain still for up to five minutes. Wing veins can bleed easily and we wanted to make sure she’d let us hold it off so a hematoma didn’t form.

She did well with the sessions and within a few months we were ready for her first blood draw. It went perfectly. A few short weeks later, we put it all together for her annual exam – a physical exam, listening to her heart, and getting a blood sample.

The video below gives you a behind-the-scenes look at what this shaping process with Margaret looked like:

[youtube http://youtu.be/H6Hjvxs8LOA]

I’m happy to report that our hard work paid off and Margaret passed her annual exam with flying colors!

national aquarium Leigh Clayton

Celebrating (Even More!) Amazing Animal Moms

In celebration of Mother’s Day on May 11, we’d like to continue last year’s tradition and introduce you to some more amazing animal moms! 

Scarlet Ibis

After establishing mating pairs, scarlet ibises work together to build a nest in the mangrove canopies, where the female will sit patiently on her eggs for approximately 20 days.

scarlet ibis

Once her eggs have hatched, the female and her male counterpart will work together to co-parent their young. For the most part, scarlet ibises live in social colonies of thirty or more. In these groups, protection of young and search for food become communal responsibilities!

Harp Seals

Female harp seals gather in groups to give birth to their young.

harp seal

Image via Wiki Commons.

After birth, mother harp seals typically spend 12 days nursing their babies. During that time, the mom doesn’t eat, losing up to 5-10 pounds per day!

Manatees

Manatee moms are also extremely dedicated to their young.

manatees

The pair spend the first two years of the calf’s life close together, during which time the mother can nurse, protect and guide her baby.

How are you celebrating Mother’s Day? Tell us in the comments section! 

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! 


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