The aquarium is breaking records with animal healthcare! Two special shorebirds that have lived at the Monterey Bay Aquarium since the mid 1980s are the oldest individuals of their species at any U.S. zoo or aquarium.
The elderly female birds, one sanderling and one willet have been raised by aquarium staff and volunteers for over 20 years. They enjoy top-notch veterinary care, regular meals and safety from predators, all of which contributes to long, healthy lives.
The sanderling arrived in 1986, making her at least 22 years old, much older than the life expectancy in the wild of five years. Sanderlings are small shorebirds seen in flocks on California beaches, chasing receding waves. Despite cataracts in both eyes and a hump on her back, she is still an active member of the exhibit.
The other record-setting bird is a willet, a large species of sandpiper with tall graceful legs and a long straight bill. After over 21 years on exhibit, associate curator of aviculture Aimee Greenebaum says this older bird is still “one of our most curious birds.”
Both birds live in the aquarium’s aviary, on the first floor of the aqurium near the bat ray touch pool. It's a unique exhibit because, as Greenebaum says, “it gives visitors a chance to see many different species of shorebirds up close that are normally hard to see in the wild.”
Most birds in the aviary were rescued with wing injuries and live at the aquarium because they can't be released in the wild. And for one sanderling and one willet, two decades at the Monterey Bay Aquarium have provided an especially long and healthy life!
Visit the aviary web cam at www.montereybayaquarium.org/efc/efc_sandy/sandy_cam.asp for some virtual bird watching, and wave hello to the two senior citizens of the dunes.