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PITTSBURGH Pa.- The Tweetspeak cluster course took a trip to the steel city on February 21st to visit the National Aviary. The National Aviary is the only independent nonprofit and largest aviary in the United States.

Our day started with a tour of the aviary. We venturing into the Avian Hospital that hosts all the ill and elderly birds that may be to sick or old to be on display. After the hospital we visited other areas of the aviary. Each of these areas specialize in a specific habitat, including:

  • Penguin Point- Is home to over twenty African Penguins.
  • Tropical Rainforest- Home to a variety of birds who live in the Rainforest.
  • Wetlands- Home to birds who thrive in wet areas all over the world, including ducks, spoonbills, and flamingos.
  • Grasslands- This area houses finches, doves, sparrows and other smaller bird who live in Grassland areas.
  • Canary’s Call- Focuses on human impact on birds and their habitats.

One of the most interesting things about the National Aviary is, you don’t just observe an exhibit, you walk through an exhibit. One has to be careful walking around, as birds fly and walk around you.

After our tour, we had time to explore and examine specific exhibits. Being an avid waterfowl hunter, I was drawn to the wetlands exhibit. Leaning up against a railing in the wetlands exhibit. Watching the elegant crest of a Hooded Merganser, as he is swimming and diving in the water, I interrupted by a large bird slid down the rain closer to me. After examining this big bird I identified it as a Hadada Ibis. After looking at the bird I wondered why are these two species together in the same habitat? The hooded Merganser is from North America and the Hadada Ibis is from Africa.  What are the similarities and differences that allow them to be in the same habitat?



The Hooded Merganser and the Hadada Ibis also have many similarities. The reason they are grouped together in the National Aviary is they share a common bond in their habitat and food sources. Both of the birds like the areas around a wetland. However the Ibis often goes to grassland to feed it is often found around the swampy area in a wetland. But why do they both like this area? Well it has to do with the food source found in the wetlands. In the wetlands it is easy to find fish, insects, amphibians, and vegetation. This is why they share the same habitat in the Nation Aviary. Each of these two species find a common ground with their food, however it’s how they get their food is where they differ. Which can lead to their different shapes and seizes.



Although these species share some common characteristics, some of their distinctive visual features are specialized to suit their specific needs in their environment. Lets start with the feet. The Hooded Merganser has webbed feet. This allows the duck to easily get around and dive deep into the water to retrieve food. On the other hand the Ibis has long feet, designed for perching or walking in water. The foot has four toes, three in the front and one in the rear to help with balance when perched. The feet themselves show how they are different when it comes to collecting food. The Hooded Merganser uses its webbed feet swims and searches for food. While the Ibis perches and wait for the food to come to it.

Another characteristic difference is the bill. The Ibis has a long curved bill that allows it to reach its food deep in the water or poke into the dirt to retrieve its food. The Hooded Merganser on the other hand has a shorter skinny bill. This bird does not require a long bill because it dives and searches for its food.

Overall these two species share similarities and have some major differences. At times they can look odd being in the same habitat being so different from one another. After some examination I realized that they should be in the same habitat together because they are similar, but have different characteristics that are suited to their specific needs. Thanks to the National Aviary made me think in depth on how bird evolve and change for specific adaptions to their habitats.

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