UPDATE - JANUARY 19, 2018
Georgia Aquarium's newest exhibit is officially OPEN! You can see horned and tufted puffins, pigeon guillemots, and common murres in our Cold Water Quest gallery across from the Southern sea otters. For photos of the exhibit and these four types of seabird, please click here. For a behind-the-scenes look on our seabird habitat with some of our animal care team, check out the video below!
UPDATE – DECEMBER 6, 2017
The puffin exhibit will open at Georgia Aquarium on Friday, January 19, 2018! Located in the Cold Water Quest gallery across from the Southern sea otters, guests will see two types of puffins - horned and tufted, in addition to two other types of seabirds – pigeon guillemots and common murres. Through a partnership with the Alaska SeaLife Center (ASLC), Georgia Aquarium was able to bring some of these birds to Atlanta over the last few months. ASLC has been caring for additional birds, which are now making their way to Atlanta ahead of the exhibit’s opening. This newest addition is included with General Admission and Memberships. For tickets and special offers please visit http://www.georgiaaquarium.org/experience/visit/tickets/tickets-offers.
For photos and b-roll of the puffins and Alaska SeaLife Center, please click here.
ATLANTA (JULY 19, 2017) – Coming soon to Georgia Aquarium: seabirds. This new exhibit will feature four different species of seabirds from the North Pacific, including: horned puffins, tufted puffins, common murres, and pigeon guillemots. The new habitat will open in the Aquarium’s Cold Water Quest gallery across from fellow cold-water inhabitants, the Southern sea otters.
The exhibit will contain more than 11,000 gallons of water and intricate rockwork and other features closely resembling these birds’ native cliff-side dwellings. Ornate rockwork will also spill to the outside of the exhibit which will boast tall acrylic windows, giving guests above water and underwater views.
Through a partnership with Alaska SeaLife Center (ASLC) in Seward, Alaska, Georgia Aquarium was able to help bring some of these arctic and sub-arctic seabirds to Atlanta. These animals are being cared for in a behind-the-scenes area of the Aquarium while their new habitat is completed. ASLC is currently caring for pufflings, or baby puffins, that have recently hatched and will make their way to Georgia Aquarium with several additional adult birds prior to the exhibit’s opening.
Georgia Aquarium is also working with other aquarium partners as well as the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) Species Survival Plan (SSP) for these seabirds. The SSP oversees the sustainable population management of select species at AZA institutions and works to enhance the conservation of these species.
Puffins, murres, and guillemots are all members of the alcid family. Alcids are pelagic seabirds and are uniquely adapted to marine environments. Puffins have small wings and legs set back on their bodies, making them excellent swimmers and divers. But, this also makes them very clumsy on land and taking flight can be a challenge for these popular birds. Horned puffins have a large orange-to-red beak while tufted puffins have a large orange beak with white coloration around the sides of their heads. Both pigeon guillemots and common murres are dark brownish-black birds with red legs.
Alcids are often confused for but not related to penguins. Alcids are found in the Northern Hemisphere and have the ability to fly, albeit, with some work. These birds have short wingspans and must run, jump, or beat their wings rapidly to produce enough momentum to take flight. Penguins, however, are unable to fly and are found in the Southern Hemisphere.
While these seabirds are listed as “Least Concern” on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature Red List, they still face dangers. Puffins are frequently caught in fishing bycatch and many are found to carry toxins – mercury and cadmium - most likely from the fish they eat. Common murres faced a historic die-off in 2015 and 2016. Researchers believe their food source ventured farther into the ocean with warming temperatures, leading to starvation.
The new exhibit is currently under construction and is coming soon. For updates and inside looks at the exhibit and these seabirds, follow Georgia Aquarium on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. For more information, please visit news.georgiaaquarium.org.