Posts Tagged 'puffins'

Move Over Royal Baby, Puffin Chick Born at National Aquarium!

special announcement national aquarium baltimore

Will and Kate who? At National Aquarium, we’re congratulating puffin parents Victor and Vixen on the birth of their female puffin chick!

puffin chick

This baby is the fourth chick for Victor and Vixen, the parents of  the Aquarium’s first successful puffin chick back in 2006. Puffins co-parent their young and take turns incubating the egg, protecting their nest and carrying back small fish to keep their chick happily fed.

The Aquarium’s new addition hatched on July 4 after an incubation period of approximately 30 days. Our puffins nest in special enclosures created to mimic the deep burrows typically used by their species. In the wild, puffin couples have been observed reuniting at the same burrow site year after year.

puffin chick

Since her birth, the chick has been closely watched by our staff aviculturists. We’re happy to report that the baby is steadily gaining weight and appears to be quite healthy!

puffin chick

The baby puffin will remain within its burrow for 40 or more days before it begins making short exploratory trips into the exhibit.

Stay tuned for more updates on the newest addition to the Aquarium family! 

Animal Updates – April 5

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!

It’s breeding season for the Puffins and Alcids! 

Yesterday, staff performed a routine deep cleaning of our puffin exhibit to prepare it for the upcoming breeding season! The process of cleaning the exhibit thoroughly is extensive. First, the exhibit is drained completely and given a disinfectant treatment.

staff cleaning puffin exhibit

Then, staff scrub each rock and crevice by hand – cleaning the exhibit by hand gives staff the opportunity to inspect it for any needed repairs. Finally, the area is hosed down and filled once again with 6,500 gallons of chilly brackish water!

staff cleaning puffin exhibit

While the exhibit is being scrubbed down, our birds are behind-the-scenes being given their routine veterinary exam – which includes health checks and weigh-ins.

puffins behind-the-scenes

This most recent scrub and vet. check will be the last until the breeding season ends in September!

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 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.


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 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 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! 

Puffin chicks get names and exhibit new behaviors

Our little chicks are growing up and have been given names!

In July, we announced the hatching of not one, but two Atlantic puffin chicks at the National Aquarium, Baltimore.

The young puffins spent their first weeks in their burrows being cared for by their parents. By the end of August, the two chicks had begun exploring life outside the burrow and practicing swimming.

At that time we asked our Facebook fans and Twitter followers to suggest names for the chicks. Our puffin keepers narrowed down the lists to their top five favorites for each chick, and then we put them to a vote onsite at the Aquarium and online on our Facebook page. (We received a total of 1,836 votes!)

The winning names are Violet and Jasper!

Violet hatched on June 28, 2011, weighing 40 grams. Her parents are Victor and Vixen. This is the puffin pair’s third chick! Her big brother, Vinny, hatched last year and also received his name by popular vote.

Jasper hatched on July 10, 2011, weighing 39.4 grams. He is Tex and Kingster’s first chick.

Over the past two weeks, the chicks have become much more brave. They spend very little time in the burrow and can be seen splashing in the water and scuttling across the land in our Sea Cliffs exhibit. The little girl is starting to take fish that are thrown to her.

The chicks are starting to look a lot like their full-grown counterparts, except their bills are slightly smaller and still almost completely gray in color. Ask an Exhibit Guide if you need any help spotting them.

Visit the National Aquarium, Baltimore soon for a chance to see Violet and Jasper before they’re all grown up!

Puffin chicks hatched in Sea Cliffs exhibit!

Just weeks ago, we welcomed two new puffin chicks to our Sea Cliffs exhibit!

Back in 2006, we were happy to report the first successful hatching of a puffin chick at the National Aquarium. The parents, Victor and Vixen, presented us with another healthy chick in 2010, later named Vinny.  On June 28, 2011, they hatched their third little puffin! The chick weighed 40 grams at the time of the hatch, and weighed 90 grams at 8 days old. This follows the weight pattern of his older brother.

Just a little over a week later, on July 6, first-time puffin parents Tex and Kingster hatched their own chick, making this the Aquarium’s first year for multiple puffin hatchings. This chick weighed 39.4 grams at the time of the hatch and 168 grams at 12 days old.

For the next several weeks, the young puffins will remain in their burrows while they are cared for by their parents. Visitors may see the parents bringing fish into the nest burrows, which are located in the far left side of the exhibit.

When they are about 45 days old, they should begin exploring life outside of the burrow and will be visible to the public. Check back here in the upcoming weeks for updates and naming opportunities!

Here is a video of the first chick being weighed just days ago:

Curious about what it takes to care for puffins? Be an early bird to the Aquarium on August 28 for a talk with one of our aviculturists, from 7:45–9 a.m. Light breakfast fare will be provided. Cost: $30, includes Aquarium admission. Member price: $8. Reserve your ticket by calling 410-727-3474.

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:

Sign up for AquaMail

Like us on Facebook!

Twitter Updates