Archive for the 'Birds' Category



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! 

Amazing Experiences Sweepstakes: Congratulations to our Fourth Winner!

Australia winner

After weeks of excitement and thousands of entries, we’re happy to announce the winners of our Amazing Experiences Sweepstakes!

All week we’ve been announcing the winners for each of our amazing prizes right here on our WATERblog, on our Facebook page and through our email, Aquamail.

Today’s winner is Kelly S. from Alexandria, Virginia! CONGRATULATIONS KELLY! You have won our Behind-the-Scenes Australia experience! On this personal guided tour with our Animal Planet Australia: Wild Extremes curator, you and three guests will get the full behind-the-scenes look of this incredible exhibit and an up close encounters with some of our most popular animals! You’ll also get to participate in feedings and see areas of Animal Planet Australia: Wild Extremes not usually seen by guests!

Australia waterfall

Congratulations again, Kelly, we’re incredibly thankful for your support!

Didn’t win today? There is still ONE AMAZING PRIZE TO WIN…Enter today!

sweepstakes

December 21: Go Behind-the-Scenes with the Dolphins – To get any closer, you would actually have to be an Atlantic bottlenose dolphin! The lucky winner of this amazing experience will go on a private meet and greet with the Aquarium’s dolphins, tour the dolphin area, see how National Aquarium staff prepare their food, check out the dolphin’s extensive toy collection, and learn behind the scenes secrets from the trainers. The winner will get to work with the trainer during a training session, learn how to communicate with the dolphins, and participate in enrichment and play activities!

Still haven’t entered for your chance to win? Well, not to worry. We will still be accepting entries until midnight tonight, December 20th.

ENTER NOW!

How To Enter:
Five Great Ways to be Automatically Entered to Win:

Stay tuned tomorrow to see if YOU are selected as our last lucky winner!!!

Amazing Experiences Sweepstakes: Congratulations to Our Second Winner!

amazing rain forest winner

After weeks of excitement and thousands of entries, we’re happy to announce the winners of our Amazing Experiences Sweepstakes!

All week we’ll be announcing the winners for each of our amazing prizes right here on our WATERblog, on our Facebook page and through our email, Aquamail.

Today’s winner is David B. from Baltimore, Maryland! CONGRATULATIONS DAVID! You are the lucky winner of our Rain Forest prize! There is only one rain forest in Maryland, and it is at National Aquarium, Baltimore. As part of your prize, you have the opportunity to help care for this unique habitat side-by-side with our Upland Tropical Rain Forest staff! You will go behind-the-scenes and learn what it takes to care for the diverse and extraordinary ecosystem, prepare food and feed the exhibit’s 15 beautiful species of birds, and tend to a wide range of tropical plants, including a cacao tree  – where chocolate comes from! You will also meet and feed our pair of golden lion tamarin monkeys and help care for our poison dart frogs.

scarlet ibis

Explore the rain forest with our staff and discovery beautiful creatures like the scarlet ibis!

Congratulations again, David. We’re incredibly thankful for your support!

Didn’t win today? No worries! There are still three AMAZING prizes to win…

aquarium sweepstakes

December 19: Name National Aquarium’s Baby Loggerhead Sea Turtle – The baby loggerhead sea turtles that are a part of the National Aquarium, Washington, DC’s loggerhead sea turtle early rehabilitation program are adorable! Through this program, sea turtle hatchlings spend time in aquariums where they can safely grow before being released back to the ocean. The winner of this amazing experience will give the newest turtle, arriving in December 2012, a head start towards success with a name to carry him (or her) into the future! The winner and up to three guests will get to have a private meet and greet with the turtle, and once on display, the turtle tank will feature a sign with the turtle’s name and the winner’s name.

December 20: Go to the Extremes in Australia – On this personal guided tour with the Animal Planet Australia: Wild Extremes curator, the winner and three guests will get the full behind-the-scenes tour of this incredible exhibit, up close encounters with National Aquarium’s most popular animals, participate in feedings, and see areas of Animal Planet Australia: Wild Extremes not usually seen by guests.

December 21: Go Behind-the-Scenes with the Dolphins – To get any closer, you would actually have to be an Atlantic bottlenose dolphin! The lucky winner of this amazing experience will go on a private meet and greet with the Aquarium’s dolphins, tour the dolphin area, see how National Aquarium staff prepare their food, check out the dolphin’s extensive toy collection, and learn behind the scenes secrets from the trainers. The winner will get to work with the trainer during a training session, learn how to communicate with the dolphins, and participate in enrichment and play activities!

Still haven’t entered for your chance to win? Well, not to worry. We will still be accepting entries until midnight on December 20th.

ENTER NOW!

How To Enter:
Five Great Ways to be Automatically Entered to Win:

Stay tuned this week to see if YOU are selected as one of our lucky winners!!!

Happy Birthday Sugar!

The National Aquarium is celebrating a very special birthday today: Sugar, our umbrella cockatoo, is turning 15!

umbrella cockatoo

Sugar’s favorite enrichment activity is tearing up shredded newspaper. He also loves sharpening his beak on wood blocks!

umbrella cockatoo

Don’t forget Sugar’s favorite treats – peanuts and coconut!

umbrella cockatoo

Yum yum yum!

When Sugar gets excited (often by the sight of peanuts or coconut!) he raises his crest of feathers to communicate that to our staff and guests!

umbrella cockatoo

Sugar is one the animals you can see at our daily Animal Encounters and you can often see him in the Overlook!

animal encounter

Sugar LOVES to play in and with tubes!

umbrella cockatoo

Cardboard, PVC pipe, you name it – Basically, he loves anything he can look through!

umbrella cockatoo

Anyone in there?

Stop by National Aquarium, Baltimore today and you might see Sugar during one of our Animal Encounters! 

An Easy DIY Thanksgiving Craft for the Kids (or the Birds)!

We like to theme our animal enrichments around the holidays A LOT. Not only is it a fun side project for our staff, but also gives us the opportunity to re-purpose and recycle materials that otherwise would have been discarded.

Sugar showing off her cardboard turkey!

One of our favorite materials to use for these enrichment items is cardboard! This year, we decided to make some special cardboard turkeys for our birds to play with. If not being used by birds to sharpen their beaks, these turkeys also make for some festive decorations!

Margaret went right into destruction mode. She can’t resist chomping on those wooden beads!

But these playful turkeys aren’t just for our birds – they are an easy do-it-yourself project for anyone looking for some Thanksgiving craft fun! Follow the instructions below to make your own!

Cardboard Turkey

Materials:

  • Cardboard cut into wedges, we used two per turkey
  • Popsicle sticks, if you are purchasing these we suggest going for the colored variety
  • Wooden beads
  • Scissors
  • Zip ties
  • Permanent marker

Directions:

  1. Cut the corners of your cardboard into wedge pieces, varying in size (we kept ours between 3 and 6 inches wide)
  2. Using your scissors, carefully poke a small hold in the center of each wedge
  3. Stick your popsicle sticks in the slits of the cardboard, leaving little space in between each stick
  4. Once your wedges have their “feathers”, use the zip tie to connect the beads and wedges to make the shape of a turkey
  5. Use your permanent marker to draw eyes on your turkey!

We hope everyone has a safe and happy Thanksgiving! Have a favorite Thanksgiving-themed craft? Tell us in the comments!


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