From tiny hummingbirds to giant ostriches, vibrant peacocks and majestic eagles, the birds that inhabit our blue planet are incredible and awe-inspiring.
Thirteen of earth’s 10,000 species of birds call Shedd home, but why would birds live at an aquarium?
1. They are connected to aquatic ecosystems
Birds play important roles in aquatic ecosystems, living near bodies of water, hunting from water and more. At Shedd, birds show us the full picture of aquatic habitats, the animals that live there and how they can interact.
2. They inspire us to take action
The birds at Shedd help us to start conversations about critical threats to our feathered friends, such as deforestation, habitat loss and encroachment, the illegal pet trade, poaching and more.
Help us continue to protect birds and wildlife through policy changes. Sign up for Surge.
““There’s nothing like those emotional moments when guests make connections with wildlife and are inspired to care more deeply about protecting the environments where they live.”Maris Muzzy - Animal Care Manager
3. They are ambassadors for their species
The birds at Shedd are ambassadors for their species and offer an incredible opportunity to look nature in the eye and see animals up close that we may only spot high in the sky or darting through the water in their natural habitats.
Let’s meet some of Shedd’s avian ambassadors!
Many are familiar with Shedd’s famous penguins, like Wellington who was named “Chicagoan of the Year” in 2021. Did you know there are more than 30 penguins that call Shedd home? Shedd cares for two species of penguins — rockhopper and the Magellanic penguins — that live together in the Polar Play Zone, hopping on the rocks in their habitat or “flying” underwater as fast as 15 miles per hour. Of the two species, rockhoppers stand out with red eyes, orange beaks and long chrome yellow crest feathers like wild eyebrows.
Serrano and Poblano, Shedd’s 13-year-old pair of green-winged macaws, can often be seen stretching their wings in the Oceanarium between their animal caretakers. In flight they can be recognized by their vibrant red bodies.
Macaws are experts at dispersing seeds across their habitats in the Amazon rainforest, and many of the tropical lowland forests of Central and South America. Macaws eat fruit, seeds, berries and nuts, which travel through their digestive system and are dropped across the environment. With a healthy rainforest, we avoid soil erosion, help with climate control and maintain a healthy water cycle.
Wattled jaçanas, native to the seasonally flooded Amazon, are perfectly adapted to life on the water! Their long legs, splayed toes and nails help to evenly distribute their weight to gracefully walk over lily pads and other floating vegetation on the water’s surface. Visit the wattled jaçana in Amazon Rising!
Birds of prey
The red-tailed hawks, barred owl and great horned owl at Shedd 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 here after interactions with humans or other events left them unable to survive on their own.
Barred owl Rainier was found as a nestling and illegally raised in a home, leaving him dependent on humans to survive.
An injury when great horned owl Logan was a fledgling 15 years ago left him blind in one eye. Although surgery helped to restore most of his vision, Logan’s sight impairment would keep him from thriving on his own in his natural habitat.
Red-tailed hawk Athens arrived at Shedd in April 2010, and could only flutter and flap for short distances after having been hit by a car.
Hawk-headed parrots are also called the red-fan parrot because, when scared or excited, they can raise their red-colored neck feathers to form an elaborate fan around their heads. This display plumage is unique among other related species of parrots. Look up in Amazon Rising to see the hawk-headed parrots perched in the trees.
Meet the Penguins
From crested rockhoppers to smooth-swimming Magellanics, meet the penguins that call Shedd Aquarium home.
Eat Like the Animals
Shedd’s organic gardens brim with colorful native flowers and heirloom edibles. But did you know our horticulturists grow flowers, fruits and ve...
The Case of the Fractured Feathers
Athens, a male red-tailed hawk, was not a good flyer when he arrived at Shedd in April 2010. The powerful soaring bird could only flutter and fl...