Posts Tagged 'margaret'

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

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

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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