Showing posts tagged as "birds"
Our common murre chicks are growing fast behind the scenes, and we’ve even started training sessions. The male chick is very social and likes to pull on the staff’s waders during cleaning! They hatched in late August and should be on exhibit soon.
By Jim Covel, Director of Guest Experience
Walking around the Aquarium these days you’ll frequently hear German, French, Portuguese and other languages. The fall “shoulder season” in the travel business is very popular with international travelers, and the Aquarium is certainly a well-known destination for globetrotters. It’s fortuitous that Monterey is also the foreign language capitol of North America, home to the Monterey Institute of International Studies, Defense Language Institute and other organizations that attract language experts. As a result, we’re blessed with staff and volunteers with diverse language skills.
The humans traveling through Monterey from all over the world are only part of the international visitors we see this time of the year. We also see a variety of migrating wildlife as well, and the view from our Wildlife Viewing Station is alive with these other visitors.
The humpback whales being seen daily are better described as seasonal residents, as they spend the summer and fall in Monterey Bay feeding, then retire to warm Central American waters for the winter. Our blue whales fit a similar pattern. We have already been seeing gray whales in the bay, and they usually appear in the winter on their way to Mexico—their travel pattern is certainly confused this year!
While these marine mammals are impressive travelers, migrating several thousand miles each year between northern feeding grounds and tropical winter waters, birds win this travel competition. Shearwaters pass through Monterey Bay in the tens of thousands, from feeding areas as far north as Alaska to their winter homes in New Zealand, Tasmania and other destinations in the Southern Hemisphere. The sooty shearwater may fly up to 40,000 miles per year in an effort to chase summer from the Northern Hemisphere to the Southern Hemisphere. We’ve been watching flocks of tiny phalaropes on their way from arctic nesting areas to wintering grounds off the shores of Peru and Ecuador.
I’m always impressed that a bird smaller than your fist, weighing less than the change in your pocket, can fly over 6,000 miles in a few months’ time. These massive migrations are only possible with the strategic distribution of critical refueling stops along the route. Those refueling stops are wetland areas that provide specific food, water and quiet resting areas for migrating birds. Wetland areas were already in short supply, and with the drought in much of the West the situation has become critical. Wildlife authorities have been creating emergency wetland areas on the Pacific Flyway this fall to avoid disaster by giving millions of migrating birds a chance to recharge and refuel.
Fortunately the waters of Monterey Bay have been rich in food this year and have provided a welcome respite for a remarkable array of wildlife, and have attracted humans from all over the world to enjoy the show that nature is staging for us.
Watch our Monterey Bay cam live
(Humpback photo by Jim Capwell/Divecentral.com)
Underwater meal? No problem! The black-necked stilt has adapted well to life in wetlands and marshes. Long legs and a narrow beak help it pluck small fish from shallow waters.
Can you spot one with our live Aviary cam?
Some appetite! Our recently hatched common murre chicks are behind the scenes eating (and eating, and eating) in preparation for going on exhibit. It’s the first time we’ve ever had baby murres at the Aquarium!
The eggs, from different mothers, were taken behind the scenes and incubated by our aviculture staff. They hatched August 29 and 30. We take them behind the scenes for their health and safety, rather than keep them in a busy exhibit environment.
The chicks’ mothers have been with us for many years. One was rescued from the Apex Houston oil spill, which occurred off the northern California coast in January 1986. (In fact, at least one Aquarium employee, Janet Covell, was on the scene helping rescue murres.) Our pair was declared non-releasable by California Fish and Wildlife, and was raised at the Aquarium.
Although the species is not currently listed as threatened, all shorebirds face pressures from habitat damage and pollution. The chicks are being raised at the Aquarium under the auspices of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Species Survival Plan (SSP).
The youngsters are growing fast and being hand-fed small fish every few hours, from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. It’s a lot of work! We expect them to be big enough to go on exhibit in in mid October.
“We’re really excited to have these chicks at the Aquarium,” says Aimee Greenebaum, associate curator of aviculture. “Especially since they were born to rescued mothers that have been here for a long time. It’s a great success story. Plus—they’re so cute!”
"My wife went on a four-month trip and left me with binoculars and a bird book. That’s how it all started. When you work with birds, you have to slow down. You have to think about everything—where you put your hands, what cues you give off. They’re so tuned in to body language.”
—Eric Miller, aviculturist
Did you know that today is World Shorebirds Day? We’re doing our part, and just released our final threatened snowy plover of the season, for a total of close to 20 rescued birds. Unfortunately, many shorebird species are threatened due to habitat loss, pollution and other factors.
Learn more about World Shorebirds Day and what you can do to help!
(Photos: Aimee Greenebaum)
Going grocery shopping? Tufted puffins can grasp 10 fish at once in their broad beaks! These diving birds stay underwater for up to a minute as they snap up small fishes, squid and invertebrates.
Think you travel a lot? The diminutive red knot probably has you beat, traveling from the Arctic Circle to Tierra del Fuego—a distance of 9,300 miles each way—each year. And it does it all under its own steam.
We just added two of these long distance flyers to our Aviary exhibit. You can also view them on our live web cam.
While red knots could put most business travelers to shame, ours have been forced to stick closer to home, due to permanent wing injuries. The pair (a male and female) flew here—in a plane—from the Florida Aquarium, which has hosted them for more than a decade.
Reading up on Red Knots
Red knots (Calidris canutus) are one of the larger sandpipers, and can live to a ripe age. Scientists recently discovered a 21-year-old.
The birds, which grow to 10 inches, can occasionally be seen in local estuaries such as Elkhorn Slough. But these sightings are rare. These mileage champs breed in some of the coldest places in the world, and winter in some of the hottest. While they travel vast distances, red knots depend on certain stops along the way to fuel up, such as in Hudson Bay and Brazil. This can create challenges for the birds if food sources—particularly horseshoe crab eggs—are in short supply due to overharvesting.
“We’re really excited to have them,” says aviculturist Eric Miller. “Though they’re not technically endangered, red knots in some parts of the world are declining, and this is a great chance for people to see them.”
Did you know that we rescue and release endangered (and cute) snowy plovers? So far this year we’ve successfully released 16 birds on area beaches—with more to come!
Have you seen them? Iridescent pelagic cormorants are nesting below our decks. Watch these diving birds swoop and plunge for seaweed nesting material and fishy snacks for their chicks. Thanks to member Gene Barclift for these fun #FanFriday photos!