Just off Oregon’s shores live birds that spend their lives at sea, except for their annual breeding season in the 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.
What Kinds Of Birds Are In The Aviary?
The species exhibited in the Seabird Aviary are Tufted Puffins, Horned Puffins, Rhinoceros Auklets, Pigeon Guillemots, Common Murres and Black Oystercatchers. 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 which include vivid colors and striking markings. The birds molt again in the early fall, replacing their feathers and changing their appearance in the process.
Veteran divers, Alcids gracefully “fly” underwater and frequently dive to depths of 30-40 feet, although murres have been recorded diving to 400 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 tide pool 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 oystercatchers have deep red beaks and sleek black feathers that remain unchanged throughout the year.
About Our Seabird Aviary
The aviary includes two pools to 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’s face. An underwater viewing window is located at this pool, too, so that 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 a rocky bank, outcrops and landscaping. This area provides built-in burrows in the rock and smaller nesting boxes for the various bird species.
- 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, and 8 nesting sites.
- South pool holds 17,000 gallons, with 31 nesting sites.
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. Click here to current feeding times and other valuable visitor information.
Fratercula cirrhataAmong the species in our Aviary, the Tufted Puffin is a visitor favorite. This beautiful bird achieves its most remarkable coloration during the summer months when breeding adults begin to vie for each other’s attention.
Fratercula corniculataLike Common Murres and Pigeon Guillemots, the Horned Puffin is an auk, a type of bird characterized by short wings, thick beaks with excellent swimming and diving abilities. On land, auks walk in an upright, often clumsy posture with some species resembling penguins although they are not related.
Cerorhinca monocerataOne of the most intriguing things about this small bird may be its name. First, it is not a true auklet, which is a species of plankton-feeding seabirds common to the Pacific coast which includes the Cassin’s Auklet.
Cepphus columbaThe Pigeon Guillemot is a medium-sized auk, the family of birds which also include murres and puffins. These birds can be recognized by their black plumage and a distinctive patch of white feathers that cover the upper wing.
Uria aalgeMale and female Common Murres look alike with a distinctive dark, slender bill and a black-and-white color pattern that makes many people mistake them for penguins.
Haematopus bachmaniThe oystercatcher is a common shorebird in Oregon, often seen patrolling the rocky beaches and tide pools where they will pry up shellfish using their long laterally-flattened bills.
- 13 Oct 2014
- Sea Bird Aviary