Posts Tagged 'tanagers'

Animal Updates – April 19

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!

Amazon Tree Boa on exhibit! 

Our juvenile Amazon tree boa has been very active on exhibit lately!

amazon tree boa

Adult Amazon tree boas can reach up to 6.5 feet in length. Found throughout South America, this species of tree boa is a nocturnal predator. Currently in its juvenile “yellow phase,” these snakes change color once they reach adulthood.

animal update

Silver-beaked Tanagers on exhibit! 

Six silver-beaked tanagers are now on exhibit in the Upland Tropical Rain Forest! These tanagers are well-known for their deep crimson hue and striking beak.

silver beaked tanager

The silver-beaked tanager ranges from Colombia to Bolivia and along the east coast including Brazil, Paraguay and as far south as Argentina. Although this species is not currently listed as threatened, the destruction of their habitat for industrial/agricultural gain could put them at risk in the near future.

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

New chicks on the block!

From Ken Howell and Deb Dial, Rain Forest staff -

We are happy to introduce the newest members of our Rain Forest bird collection: two bay-headed tanager chicks!

Newly hatched bay-headed tanagers! Photo by Alex Zelazo-Kessler

This is the first successful rearing of bay-headed tanagers in our Upland Tropical Rain Forest exhibit. Rearing small passerine birds in a mixed species exhibit (such as ours) is extraordinarily difficult, so we are very proud of this success! It has taken several years of intuitive problem solving by our aviculture staff to reach this point. In case you are wondering, aviculture is the practice of keeping and breeding birds and the culture that forms around them. 

The goal of our aviculture staff is to provide an environment in the Rain Forest that promotes natural behaviors, which we hope ultimately leads to parent-reared, on-exhibit reproductive success.

Because we are attempting to breed on exhibit, the birds here experience many of the same challenges that chicks and parents experience in the wild. We have encountered problems with other species predating on the eggs and have had to deal with newly hatched chicks and their parents selecting inappropriate food items. Perhaps the greatest difficulty has been that there are very few opportunities for staff to learn from each breeding event (usually just two to three events a year). 

The breeding success is due to a combination of adaptations, which have been implemented one at a time over the last several years to judge the effectiveness of each change. Those adaptations have included the creation of “exclusion boxes” to prevent nest interference, the introduction of new food items over time, and the installation of nest cameras to maximize our potential to learn more about the breeding processes!

Our two new chicks have been named “Billy” and “Kline” in honor of the Aquarium’s Facilities director, Bill Kline. He was of great assistance in delaying a project to repair the Rain Forest deck, which was scheduled to begin the very day the eggs hatched! Though the nest is about 2-3 feet away from the intended work space, we wanted to give the chicks some undisturbed time to become acclimated to their new world.

The actual gender of the young birds is currently unknown and will be determined by DNA analysis at a later date. The chicks, along with their parents, are currently residing in the corner Howdy cage where the young birds can practice their flying skills. It is our plan to release the new chicks into the Rain Forest exhibit once they have become experienced fliers.

We have had success breeding other species, including Red-capped Cardinals and White-tailed Trogons. In fact, we have led the industry in White-tailed Trogon breeding and have been able to provide many other institutions with information to help them do the same. We hope that with continued and consistent success with our small birds on exhibit, we will become a leader in tanager breeding as well!


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