Seattle Aquarium diving birds get a thumbs up from the doctor

Routine checkups are important for everyone—including the animals at the Aquarium. Recently, our bird & mammal team conducted routine checkups for all 15 of the alcids that call the Seattle Aquarium home.

Alcids are a family of birds indigenous to the Northern Hemisphere and are commonly found in the Pacific Northwest. Here at the Aquarium we have four different types of alcids including tufted puffins, rhinoceros auklets, common murres and pigeon guillemots.

Common murre

A unique characteristic of alcids, as compared to their southern cousin the penguin, is that alcids can not only swim underwater—they can also fly through the air like the majority of birds! Amazingly, the deepest-diving alcid at the Aquarium, the common murre, can swim to depths of 350–400 feet below the water’s surface and stay submerged for one to two minutes at a time.

Fifteen checkups over the last month

Preventative medicine is an essential element in the care our animals receive. Regular checkups include evaluations of the animals’ environments, observations of their behavior and routine physical examinations of the animals themselves.

Tufted puffin

Throughout the last month, all of the alcids in our care were examined by Aquarium life sciences staff and our vet, Dr. Caitlin Hadfield. The goal of the checkup is always to catch any possible areas of concern before they might progress into issues, and the good news is: all the birds are doing great!

The Aquarium’s diverse family of diving birds

The diving birds at the Aquarium have a wide spectrum of ages that caregivers must consider as they conduct their checkups. Some birds are elderly, including our pigeon guillemot (at least 32 years old) and the elder rhino auklet, Stanley (age 19). Some are younger—all the way down to our young-of-the-year tufted puffin (7 months).

Pigeon guillemot

Rhinoceros auklet

What can you do to help alcids?

While it’s  not possible to ensure checkups for every animal living in the wild, there are a few things you can do to help safeguard the health of diving birds—and all marine creatures.  Like every one of us, they rely on a healthy ocean for their survival. When we care for our marine environment, we’re also helping to ensure that alcids can thrive.


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