Just off Oregon's shores live birds that spend their lives at sea, except for their annual breeding season in summer. Along the shore live other birds that feast on clams, crabs and mussels. An open-air, walk-through aviary at the Oregon Coast Aquarium allows visitors the rare opportunity to see some of these species up close. The aviary is one of the largest of its kind in North America.
Species exhibited: Tufted puffins, rhinoceros auklets, pigeon guillemots, common murres, black oystercatchers. Approximately 100 birds are on exhibit.
Aviary design: Two pools provide the birds with ample swimming and diving opportunities. A 30-foot rocky cliff rises above the north pool, with ledges and walkways that allow the birds to rest, groom and dive from the cliff face. The pool has been naturalized with the inclusion of fish and invertebrates. An underwater viewing window is located here, so visitors can watch the underwater swimming skills for which some of these species are known.
A shallower south pool is ringed on three sides by an earth bank, rocky outcrops and landscaping. This area provides both built-in burrows in the rockwork and the opportunity for birds to dig natural burrows in the softer soil.
Aviary dimensions: 100 feet in diameter; 7,850 square feet; center pole is 34 feet tall and supports an overhead canopy made of one continuous span of nylon fish net. North pool holds 12,000 gallons, with a maximum depth of nine feet.
South pool holds 17,000 gallons, with 20 man-made nesting burrows.
<> World's first known tufted puffin eggs artificially incubated to successful hatching and fledging
<> World's first known rhinoceros auklet chick hatched in captivity
<> World's first known pigeon guillemot chick hatched in captivity
<> World's first known black oystercatcher eggs laid and hatched in captivity
Diet: Krill, silversides, smelt and other small fishes are fed to the birds continuously throughout the day. The birds consume roughly 1,000 pounds of fish each month. Vitamins are administered daily.
Rehabilitation program: The Aquarium rehabilitates injured and sick seabirds in a cooperative program with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. Rehabilitated birds are returned to the wild whenever possible; those deemed nonreleasable are kept in the Aquarium's Seabird Aviary or at other appropriate facilities.
About seabirds and shorebirds: Tufted puffins, common murres, rhinoceros auklets and pigeon guillemots are members of the alcid family and are commonly found off the Oregon Coast. They spend most of their lives at sea, returning to rookeries along the rocky coast once a year to breed. Some species, like the tufted puffin, sport breeding plumage or skin coloration that include vivid colors and striking markings. The birds molt again in the early fall and replace their feathers with more drab colors for the rest of the year.
Veteran divers, alcids gracefully "fly" underwater and frequently dive to depths of 30-40 feet, although murres have been observed diving to 200 feet or more. Their diet consists primarily of small fish like herring or smelt.
Black oystercatchers are a shorebird species and live in rocky intertidal areas. They do not dive for fish, but chisel limpets, crabs and mussels from tidepool rocks and break them open with their beaks. They are more graceful flyers than the relatively heavy-boned, diving seabirds, and are very vocal, using a series of shrill whistles and calls to communicate with each other.
Adult black oystercatchers have deep red beaks and sleek black feathers that remain unchanged throughout the year.