Pacific Northwest Birds Week is about to fly the coop! But before we take wing, we wanted to share just a few more fast facts about the bird species in our care. Check out our library of animal fact sheets to learn more!

Black oystercatcher


Any guesses about this species’ favorite food? If you’re thinking it’s oysters, think again! These birds are actually more commonly seen eating mussels, chitons and limpets. We call fowl! (Sorry, couldn’t help ourselves.) All kidding aside, black oystercatchers use their strong, bright-orange beaks to pop limpets and chitons off exposed rocks at low tide, and to sever the adductor muscles of mussels with slightly opened shells. More cool facts here!


Snowy plover


These tiny birds weigh just over 1 ounce each (about the equivalent of a 9-volt battery). But what they lack in heft they make up for in sheer charm, as you can see. Western snowy plovers have been listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act since 1993. Humans are primarily responsible for their population decline: Their nesting sites are on beaches and vulnerable to development by humans, as well as to predators and bad weather.


Tufted puffin


Tufted puffins are alcids—diving birds that appear to “fly” as they plunge below the surface in search of prey such as herring, krill, squid, crab and shrimp. When bringing food back to the nest for their chicks, puffins can capture and hold anywhere from five to 20 small fish crosswise in their bills. Check out the video below to learn how deep puffins (and other alcids) dive when on the hunt!





Have closely have you been bird-watching this week? Test your knowledge with our trivia below—then challenge your friends to see if they can beat your score!

  1. True or false? The tufted puffin’s favorite treat is homemade chocolate chip cookies.
  2. How deep can puffins dive?
    A. 5 feet
    B. 50 feet
    C. 150 feet
    D. 200 feet
  3. How long can a common murre hold its breath?
    A. 1 minute
    B. 3 minutes
    C. 5 minutes
    D. 10 minutes
  4. How deep can a common murre dive?
    A. 30 feet
    B. 100 feet
    C. 250 feet
    D. 450 feet
  5. Approximately how many shorebird species are found in North America?
    A. 15
    B. 25
    C. 50
    D. 75
  6. How deep can the pigeon guillemot dive?
    A. 5 feet
    B. 50 feet
    C. 100 feet
    D. 150 feet
  7. True or false? The tiny western sandpiper can fly 250 miles a day while migrating.
  8. True or false? A puffin can hold up to 20 small fish in its mouth when diving.
  9. True or false? The black oystercatcher’s primary food is oysters.
  10. True or false? Alcids are related to penguins.


Here’s a recap of this week’s activities to do on your own—check our website for more!


What better way to celebrate what many consider to be the unofficial beginning of summer—Memorial Day—than with a week devoted to the amazing creatures found along the beach at low tide? Join us for Tide Pool Week to learn about the intertidal zone, how to explore the shore without harming the habitat or animals that live there, and more! We’ll post our weekly schedule on Sunday—and remember to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for even more great content.

Trivia answers:

  1. False. Tufted puffins love herring fillet—so much that they will ignore other food options and wait for it!
  2. D. Puffins, like alcids, are well adapted to life at sea. They’re able to “fly” underwater, pumping their wings and steering with their feet.
  3. B.
  4. D. The common murre has been recorded diving up to 492 feet!
  5. C. Shorebirds are a diverse group of birds that live, breed and forage along the water’s edge.
  6. C. Pigeon guillemots can dive up to 100 feet below the surface, but usually only go to around 30 feet.
  7. True.
  8. True. Puffins have small hook-like structures on the roofs of their beaks, allowing them to hold fish while diving.
  9. False. Surprisingly, oystercatchers are often found eating mussels, chitons and limpets.
  10. False. Some alcids have a similar appearance to penguins, but DNA studies show that they are not related. They even live in different hemispheres!



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