Thursday, June 27, 2013

Macaroni Penguin Chick Hatches at the Tennessee Aquarium!

Visitors are excited to see a new face at Penguins’ Rock! Parents Sweet Pea and Merlin can be seen with their macaroni chick in an acrylic “playpen” on the right side of the exhibit.

Macaroni chick at 25 days old
The chick hatched on May 31 and has been under careful observation by keepers. It is weighed and examined nearly every day. Penguin parents have the most important jobs. Both are sharing feeding and brooding responsibilities, however, Merlin leans more toward guarding and brooding the chick while Sweet Pea is a little better at feeding it.

Macaroni chick being examined by aquarium veterinary staff at  3 days old

The chick will remain under close watch as it continues to grow. If all goes well, it will be outside of the nest in a few weeks. Keepers will introduce him or her to the habitat on short walkabouts once the chick’s swim feathers grow in. (In the wild, macaroni chicks are ready to go to sea at around 10 to 11 weeks old!) Macaronis develop their trademark yellow crest feathers after their first molt – around one year old.

Macaroni chick at 21 days old

Macaroni chick at 24 days old

Currently, our gentoo penguins – whose eggs typically hatch later in the summer - have laid five eggs. We look forward to the possibility of even more baby penguins soon.

With all of this excitement, you might want to add the afternoon Backstage Pass to your Aquarium visit to get a special birds’-eye view of all the nesting penguins!

Check out this video of our new penguin chick:

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Please welcome to the Ranger Rick stage… J Bird!

If you visit our Ranger Rick’s Backyard Safari exhibit this summer, you might hear a meowing kitten or even a growling tiger. The Aquarium hasn’t opened a cat exhibit, it’s the delightful vocalizations of the newest animal star in Ranger Rick’s Backyard Safari - J Bird, an African Grey Parrot. J Bird is really good at sound effects. Aside from cat sounds, he can also mimic a babbling brook, an alarm and more.

In the wild, the African Grey Parrot is found in the rainforests of west and central Africa. Experts identify it as one of the most intelligent birds in the world. It can copy the calls and sounds of other birds and animals around it.

In human care, African Greys have been known to mimic household and electronic sounds including microwaves, alarm clocks and video games. They also have the ability to mimic and distinguish between different human voices.

Check out the video below of J Bird showing off his sound effect skills:

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

New Bonnethead Sharks Added to Stingray Bay Touch Tank

The stingrays in our Tropical Cove just got some new friends! Recently, two bonnethead sharks were added to the Stingray Bay touch tank. Staff introduced the two sharks (one male, one female) to the exhibit two weeks ago, and have been observing them closely.

Two bonnethead sharks arrive at the Aquarium in a temporary transport tank

The sharks acclimated well to their new environment and tank mates. In fact, they began investigating their new surroundings as soon as they were placed in the touch tank – swimming slowly and not bumping the sides of the tank, which are known as good signs for fish in a new habitat.

In the wild, bonnetheads live in both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and are found near coral reefs, in mangroves, and other shallow coastal waters. They are the smallest species of hammerhead-like sharks and can grow to three to five feet in length. Ours are currently about two feet long.

As for now, we are still asking visitors not to touch the sharks until they have had a little more time to get used to their new home. However, they are a lot of fun to watch as they can often be seen swimming at the surface with their dorsal fins above water.

Check out this video of one of our new bonnetheads being introduced to the touch tank: