Whales_NunavikJoin us as we celebrate beluga calf Nunavik’s first birthday on Tuesday, Dec. 14. Although every day appears to be a party for this happy little whale, we’ll make his birthday special for him at 10:25 a.m., just before the first Holiday Fantasea show, with a fish-decorated cake and a serenade of “Happy Birthday” by aquarium guests. (The cake is totally symbolic: Pastries, of course, aren’t part of the beluga diet, and after master spitter Puiji douses the candle for her calf, the cake is pretty much a saltwater wash.)

Nunavik is, hands down, the cutest cast member of A Holiday Fantasea. While Mom and the other big belugas swim through their parts in this new show, Nunavik has a training session—unless he decides to take a spin around Whale Harbor. But when Puiji gets her reward for a behavior, he’s back at her side to get a fish from the trainer, too. (Please note that Puiji and Nunavik aren’t in every show.)

Whale_NunavikNunavik graduated to solid food several months ago. These days he eats about 5 pounds of capelin a day—and also nurses regularly, often after a training session or show. At his last exam, he weighed 460 pounds—up 300 from his birth weight.

The calf was named during the summer by Chicagoans and other Shedd fans, who e-mailed more than 3,200 votes for the Inuit word that means “friendly, beautiful and wild.” Most of Shedd’s belugas have names from the language of the Inuit, the native people in the whales’ Arctic range.

Nunavik is the fifth successful beluga birth at the aquarium. Shedd is one of six North American aquariums and zoos committed to public display and breeding of beluga whales. When Nunavik isn’t with his mom, he spends a lot of time with our two other young belugas, Bella, 4, and Miki, 3. All three are good at inventing games to play, especially with the balls, car-wash strips and other toys put in their pools.

Don’t miss Nunavik’s birthday party—it’s guaranteed to be a blowout!

Karen Furnweger, web editor