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A male and female wood duck sit on the water in front of rocks.


Birds are famous for their flights through the air, but many are better adapted for life on the water. Only so-so fliers, wattled jaçanas are good swimmers and divers. With their long legs and splayed toes, they excel at trotting over lily pads or sprinting across the water’s surface. Otherwise aquatic wood ducks evade predators by nesting in tree cavities high off the ground. And barred owls, which can silently swoop to catch prey, also wade into ponds to snatch a fish or a frog for a meal.

A trainer holds a barred owl, a large raptor with a flat face and small, hooked beak, during an aquatic presentation.

Rescued birds of prey

The red-tailed hawks, barred owl and great horned owl that you might see during an aquatic presentation are native to the Chicago area as well as to the Pacific Northwest ecosystem portrayed in the Abbott Oceanarium. These wild birds found a permanent home at Shedd after interactions with humans or other events left them unable to survive on their own.

Barred owl Rainier, who was found as a nestling and raised in a home, is imprinted on people, not his own species. An injury when great horned owl Logan was a fledgling, 15 years ago, left him blind in one eye. But thanks to advances in veterinary medicine, recent surgery restored most of his vision.

“The birds of prey are like tigers of the sky.”

Madelynn Hettiger, marine mammals trainer
Stella the wood duck stands on a log in her Shedd habitat, her brown plumage and speckled breast well-camouflaged against her rocky and woody surroundings.

Wood ducks: A conservation success story

Nearly wiped out by the end of the 19th century, wood ducks were saved by the Migratory Bird Act of 1918. Every once in a while, a wood duck still needs a helping hand, which is how Stella came to Shedd.

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Great horned owl

Barred owl

Red-tailed hawk

Brazilian teal

Ruddy duck

Green araçari

Wood duck