55 Music Concourse Dr.
Golden Gate Park
San Francisco CA
94118
415.379.8000
Regular Hours:

Daily

9:30 am – 5:00 pm

Sunday

11:00 am – 5:00 pm
Members' Hours:

Tuesday

8:30 – 9:30 am

Sunday

10:00 – 11:00 am
Closures
Notices

The Academy will be closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.

Rainforest will be closed Sep. 9 & 10

Rainforests of the World 

February 12, 2011

Love is in the air (literally!) and on the rocks, and in the water….

So, for all the single ladies who:
• don’t like being inconvenienced by trite ‘pillow talk’ – take a page out of our  Ghost Mantid’s (Phyllocrania paradoxa) book and consume your partner post-amour.

mantid mating

Female mantids often eat males after copulation.

• are interested in guys from South America who can co-parent might want to meet our Turquoise Tanager (Tangara mexicana).

tt-3

Photo by Rachael Tom

Male tanagers help feed chicks and protect the nesting site.

• feel it’s always good to have a ‘spare’ might be interested in our Machete Savane snake (Chironius carinatus).

Photo by Brian Freiermuth

Photo by Brian Freiermuth

Snakes and lizards have a bi-lobed reproductive organ called the hemipene.

• don’t trust a guy with a wandering eye should avoid entanglements with our Panther chameleon (Furcifer pardalis).

sambava2

Photo by Rachael Tom

Chameleon eyes are mounted on turrets that can move independently of each other.

are suckers for sweet talk and don’t mind carrying extra baggage should visit our  Slipper orchid (Paphiopedilum transvaal).

BO02 Paphiopedilum transvaal

Photo by Rachael Tom

The slipper-shaped pouch traps insects so they are forced to climb out collecting and depositing pollen that fertilizes the flower.

try not to get involved with guys that just can’t let go should keep their distance from our Red-eyed tree frog (Agalychnis callidryas).
redeyes

Photo by Brian Freiermuth

Amplexus is a form of pseudocopulation in which the male amphibian grasps the female with his front legs while fertilizing her eggs.

• prefer regurgitated fruit over a dozen roses might want to give our Blue and Gold macaw (Ara araruna) another look.

barney-1

Photo by Rachael Tom

Parrots exchange food via regurgitation as part of a courtship ritual before breeding.


Filed under: Birds,Butterflies,Fish,Herpetiles,Insects & Arachnids,Plants — Vikki McCloskey @ 1:52 pm

January 2, 2011

Species profile: bananaquits!

Please Note: The rainforest exhibit will be closed 3 January through 14 January, reopening Saturday, 15 January at 9:30am. This closure allows us much needed time to make repairs and additions to keep this exhibit looking great. We apologize for any inconvenience.

tweeties 004

Photo by Rachael Tom

Upon entering the Rainforest Exhibit here at the Academy, one’s senses are immediately perked up by the sights, sounds, and feel of this habitat. The high humidity, dappled sunlight, flowering plants, whimsical butterflies, and chirping birds are all part of the experience. If you’re one of the many lucky ones, you will have an encounter with one of my favorite species: the bananaquit Coereba flaveola.

bola-14

Photo by Rachael Tom

These brave, boisterous little birds provide some lively entertainment as they make rounds in their territory, searching for food or something interesting to poke at. Bananaquits are tiny….usually around 12 grams. We are lucky to house two pairs in our rainforest. Pink and Blue (named after their color bands) have made the eastern 4/5ths of the rainforest their territory, leaving just a tiny fraction on the west side for Purple and Red. We acquired our bananaquits about a year ago from the San Diego Zoo, where they were hatched. They have adapted extremely well to our exhibit and are one of the most frequently observed birds.

sf-7

Photo by Rachael Tom

Bananaquits have an extensive range: nearly all Caribbean islands (except Cuba) along with most of Central America and tropical South America. They tend to stay in lower elevations and avoid expansive forest or desert habitat. Bananaquits have adapted to more open, disturbed, or secondary growth habitat, so they do very well around human habitation. In fact, at many of the Caribbean island resorts, tourists often have close encounters with these curious birds.
Due to their wide distribution over the diverse cultures of the Caribbean and mainland Latin America, these birds have many common names. Some of the more colorful ones are Beeny Bird (Jamaica), See-See Bird (Grenada), and Sucrier (Haiti). Another common name is sugar bird, as bananaquits are sugar feens. Their primary diet is nectar, so a sweet tooth they do have. These birds are also fond of fruit and insects. In fact, our bananaquits are an important predator of some of the plant-damaging insects that inhabit this exhibit.

pics-7

Photo by Rachael Tom

The taxonomy of bananaquits has been debated for some time now; they have many subspecies over their vast range. They typically lay two, sometimes up to four eggs that hatch after a 12-14 day incubation period.

bq2

Photo by Rachael Tom

So stop by when the rainforest re-opens and keep an eye open for these lively little birds!
tweeties 005

Photo by Rachael Tom

Filed under: Birds — rainforest1 @ 4:34 pm

December 24, 2010

Identifying Birds and Their Nests!

This is our male blue-grey tanager (Thraupis episcopus). Although there is no obvious sexual dimorphism (physical differences between males and females) within this species, we know who is who because our male and female are banded differently.
Our male is wears a blue band on his right leg with the number 14:

Photo by: Rachael Tom

His mate wears a silver band on her right leg with the number 99 and a white band on her left leg. All of the birds in our Rainforest Exhibit have leg band color combinations unique to their species and in some cases, do not wear a band at all if they are the only individual of their species, or, the only sex of their species and sexual dimorphism exists. This allows our biologists to easily identify individuals and tell males apart from females.

We have several different sizes of leg bands because some of our birds have bigger legs than others. Here is a picture of one of our smaller bands:

Photo by: Rachael Tom

Our birds wear their bands much like a person wears a bracelet or an anklet- the bands are narrow enough so they don’t slip off, but wide enough so our birds feel comfortable . Banding a bird is just a matter of slipping the band on. This is a picture of two biologists banding a juvenile silver-beaked tanager (Ramphocelus carbo):

Photo by: Rachael Tom

Photo by: Angelo Rufino

Although we have multiple bananaquits (Coereba flaveola) on exhibit, we know that this is the more dominant female with a history of successful reproduction because she has a pink band on her left leg:

Photo by: Rachael Tom

Two female red-legged honeycreepers (Cyanerpes cyaneus) can be confusing, but we know which female is which because one is banded pink on her left leg, while the other is banded orange on her left leg:

Photo by: Rachael Tom

Again, not all of our birds are banded. Our male and female red-shouldered tanagers (Tachyphonus phoenicius) are the only pair of their species on exhibit, and look very different from each other. Female red-shouldered tanagers are dark grey with a light grey “mustache” and belly, while this is what the male looks like:

Photo by: Rachael Tom

With these bands, we can easily see what each bird is up to every day and document their health and behavior:

Photo by: Rachael Tom

Because there are a lot of other Academy staff that work in the Rainforest Exhibit, we also have a method of identifying bird nesting sites that need to be carefully worked around. By gluing pictures of our birds onto small magnets…

Photo by: Rachael Tom

we are able to place the magnets onto a map of the Rainforest for all staff to see. This way, everyone knows which birds are nesting where. When this picture was taken, a pair of bananaquits and opal-rumped tanagers (Tangara velia) were nesting in the peach palm:

Photo by: Rachael Tom

By banding birds and keeping track of bird nesting sites, biologists are able to better identify each individual bird, their health and their behaviors. Without bird bands and a bird nesting map, how would you be able to tell which individuals within a species were responsible for the nest below?

Photo by: Rachael Tom

Filed under: Birds — rainforest @ 11:45 am

November 24, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving from your Rainforest Biologists!

Tis the season to celebrate a bountiful harvest. The rainforest biologists would like to give thanks that we are able to offer a wide variety of high quality food for the animals in our charge. This exhibit contains many different taxa that require many different food items. Here is a sample menu of what some of our rainforest inhabitants will be having for their Thanksgiving weekend….

Macaws
Their diet consists of fruit, nuts, seeds, pellet, and vegetables.

parrot treats

Photo by: Rachael Tom

bowls of produce

Photo by: Rachael Tom

Neotropical Passerines
Their diet consists of fruit, seeds, vegetables, pellet, and protein items.

passerine diet

Photo by: Rachael Tom

We use several feeder insect species, including the larvae stage of mealworms Tenebrio molitor, waxworms Galleria mellonella, and soldier fly Hermetia illucens
feeder insects

Photo by: Rachael Tom

Reptiles
Carnivorous, herbivorous, or omnivorous; reptile diets are as diverse as the reptiles themselves. Some reptiles even eat other reptiles!

iguana diet

Photo by: Rachael Tom

Below are some of the feeder rodents we utilize. We order these frozen from a company that raises them specifically for food and humanely euthanizes them. They are then thawed out over a 24 hour period and then warmed so that the heat-sensing reptiles find them deliciously attractive.
feeder rodents

Photo by: Rachael Tom

Amphibians
Not as diverse in their nutritional requirements as reptiles, most of our amphibians enjoy insects.

Below is the ubiquitous cricket Acheta domesticus, probably the most popular feeder insect. We feed out various stages, from newly hatched (called pinhead) to adults, like below.
cricket!

Photo by: Rachael Tom

Butterflies
Most butterflies are nectar eaters, though the owls and blue morphos like over ripe fruit as well. Here is a Heliconicus ismenius drinking nectar from one of the many nectar-producing plants in the rainforest. We also provide artificial nectar daily along with ripe fruit.

Heliconius ismenius_Rachael Tom

Photo by: Rachael Tom

Fish
Fish eat almost everything that is dropped into their tank!

pellet feed

Photo by: Rachael Tom

Some of the frozen fish we feed to our collection fish and other creatures at the Academy: capelin Mallotus villosus, herring Clupea spp, and trout Oncorhynchus mykiss.
herring, capelin, and trout, oh my

Photo by: Rachael Tom

It takes quite a bit of research and time to create diets that fulfill so many varied nutritional requirements for our hugely diverse live animal collection. Below you can see one of our paradise tanagers Tangara chilensis next to its diet. Enjoy your Thanksgiving everyone!
beautiful paradise

Photo by: Rachael Tom

Filed under: Birds,Butterflies,Fish,Herpetiles,Insects & Arachnids — rainforest1 @ 1:20 pm

October 19, 2010

The Bird of Seven Colors

The paradise tanager (Tangara chilensis), known locally as siete colores (seven colors), is one of our most asked about rainforest birds. We currently have three of these little beauties in our Rainforest exhibit and you can often spot them flocking together and chirping away.

Paradise

Photo by: Rachael Tom

Paradise tanagers are found from the foothills of the Andes Mountains throughout most of the Amazon Basin with four subspecies: T. c. chlorocorys, T. c. paradisea, T. c. tchlorocorys and T. c. coelicolor. There is no obvious sexual dimorphism, meaning, differences between males and females. Aside from DNA testing, sex can be determined by observing behavior; males tend to call more often than females.
According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in 2009, paradise tanagers were evaluated as “least concern” in terms of future extinction. Although their population size is unknown, they have been decribed as ‘common’ throughout their large geographic range.

Paradise

Photo by: Rachael Tom

These birds are the ultimate eye candy and have a colorful personality to match. Our paradise tanagers are usually one of the first species to appear when biologists feed out nectar every morning. Just like in the wild, our tanagers’ diet is also composed of fresh fruits and small insects here at the Academy. Above is a picture of our paradise tanagers at a nectar feeding station with two female red-legged honeycreepers (Cyanerpes cyaneus) and one female red-shouldered tanager (Tachyphonus phoenicius). Below is a paradise tanager eating a piece of fruit at one of five feedings stations in the Rainforest exhibit:

Paradise

Photo by: Rachael Tom

In addition to being one of the first species to drink and feed every morning, our paradise tanagers are also always front and center for morning bathing. As our horticulturalists spray down tree leaves to remove debris, our paradise tanagers perch themselves in the middle of the spritz and began ruffling their feathers and preening just like their wild counterparts would do in heavy mist and rain. They are so dedicated to their bathing, they seem to only stop when the hose is shut off. Here are two paradise tanagers getting squeaky clean:

Paradise

Photo by: Rachael Tom

Because tropical rainforests are located near the equator, this type of habitat does not experience as many seasonal fluctuations that other parts of the world do from the tilt of the Earth’s axis as it rotates around the Sun. In general, the tropics experience two seasons: the Dry season and the Wet season. Studies have shown that the greatest number of birds nesting in the tropics occurs between April and June which are the first few months of the wet season. Our paradise tanagers, however, have been nesting throughout Summer and into Fall. This could be because of consistent food availability which aids egg production. Here is a picture of one of our paradise tanagers trying to attract a mate:

Paradise

Photo by: Rachael Tom

Paradise tanagers tend to favor nesting in the canopy of tropical rainforests. In addition to being out-of-reach for most predators, it is also believed that the humidity at the canopy level help their eggs develop properly. Once a nesting spot is chosen, our paradise tanagers will spend the majority of their day searching for nesting material.

Paradise

Photo by: Rachael Tom

Although there is plenty of naturalistic nesting material in our Rainforest Exhibit such as moss, twigs and leaves, sometimes our tanagers get a little carried away. Anything left behind in our exhibit by humans is fair game for nesting material. This includes paper towels…

Paradise

Photo by: Rachael Tom

and napkins.
Paradise

Photo by: Rachael Tom

Check out one of our paradise tanagers sitting in her well-hidden nest:
Paradise

Photo by: Rachael Tom

Paradise tanagers lay 2-3 eggs at once with an incubation period of 13-14 days. At the Academy, we have not yet observed our paradise tanagers incubate more than two eggs at a time.

Paradise

Photo by: Rachael Tom

Although we have many eye-catching birds in our Rainforest Exhibit, the paradise tanagers are by far the most colorful. We are thankful that the species is not yet threatened by extinction and are lucky to have a few of them here!

Paradise

Photo by: Rachael Tom

Filed under: Birds — rainforest @ 10:10 am

August 22, 2010

A day in the life of an aviculturist

Staff biologist Vikki gives us a glimpse of how we manage the passerine (perching bird) collection in our Rainforest Dome. What is especially interesting is at minute 3:30 when she places out the nectar feeders. In the background you can hear the macaws screeching their morning ritual.

 


Video by: Amie Wong

Filed under: Birds — rainforest1 @ 9:43 am

July 19, 2010

Busy busy summer!!

Wow- the monthy of July is just flying by! Between all the happenings in the rainforest and staff coverage during summer vacations, your rainforest biologists have been staying active. So what’s been going on? Well, let’s see:

Last weekend we had two successful bird fledglings leave their nest and take flight. First we had a silver-beaked tanager (Ramphocelus carbo) fledge, bringing our population for that species to five birds. For some reason our female red-legged honeycreepers (Cyanerpes cyaneus) have taken an interest in silver-beaked tanager juveniles. Here are some fun photos of one of the honeycreepers with the last batch of silver-beaked juvies:

honeycreeper

Photo by: Rachael Tom

honeycreeper2

Photo by: Rachael Tom

Just a couple days after that, a bananaquit (Coereba flaveola) decided to fledge as well, bringing our total population to six birds (two pairs and two offspring). Here’s a photo of the adult female taking a break from her parental duties to take a sip of nectar:

bananaquit

Photo by: Rachael Tom

On July 12 we received 3.1 paradise tanagers (Tangara chilensis). Nope, it doesn’t mean we received three and a fraction of birds. In zoo/aquarium speak, that first number is the number of males and the second number is the number of females. So we received three male paradise tanagers and one female paradise tanager. We also received 2.2 (two pairs) black-faced dacnis (Dacnis lineata). We currently have several female paradise tanagers like the one below that we hope will be excited to have three new males to choose from!

paradise

Photo by: Rachael Tom

What happens when we receive new birds from another facility? First, the animals are placed in quarantine and receive extensive medical check-ups from our superb veterinary staff. This ensures that they do not have any communicative diseases. After a minimum of 30 days in quarantine and several clean fecal samples, our veterinary staff will evaluate whether these individuals are healthy enough to incorporate into our resident bird community.

If they get a clean bill of health, we place the new birds in a “howdy cage” in the rainforest for 12-24 hours. This gives them a chance to greet the resident birds (and vice-versa) with the safety of some physical seperation. Kind of like an icebreaker. It also gives them the chance to look around and take in their surroundings. The howdy cage is hidden on the main level of the rainforest:

howdy cage

Photo by: Eric Hupperts

After some time acclimating, we will open the howdy cage door and let them leave at their choice. Typically they fly out of the cage pretty fast and head up into the trees, where many of our resident birds fly down and everyone chatters for a bit. We do have a couple individuals that are a bit bossy, so we keep an eye on how they’re treating the newbies. Our primary bully is currently our male rufous-crowned tanager (Tangara cayana):

rct

Photo by: Rachael Tom

And finally, some of you may have seen the red-tailed hawks (Buteo jamaicensis) who recently fledged from a nest on Academy property. While technically not part of our rainforest exhibit and therefore not really under the scope of this blog, the juvies have been observed sitting on the living roof above the rainforest, so there’s the connection! It’s been fun observing them as they gain confidence in their flying abilities and manouver around in the sky above. Look for them on your next visit!

hawk2

Photo by: Rachael Tom

Filed under: Birds — rainforest1 @ 12:12 pm

June 9, 2010

What rainforest animal cools off through urohydrosis?

If you guessed Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura), you’re absolutely right!

turkey vulture

Photo by: Rachael Tom

If you are a frequent visitor to our rainforest you might be thinking “I’ve never seen a vulture in there.” You’re right again! Our vulture lives out in the West Garden adjacent to the building. However, turkey vultures range from southern Canada to the southernmost tip of South America. They inhabit a huge diversity of habitats, including tropical rainforests.

They are scavengers that feed almost exclusively on carrion and are one of the few birds that have a developed sense of smell. In fact, that excellent sense of smell allows them to utilize rainforest habitat, as they have an alternative to searching for food by sight only. Other neotropical vulture species that don’t have that developed sense of smell will observe turkey vultures and follow them to food sources.

turkey vulture

Photo by: Rachael Tom

Turkey vultures have a unique defense mechanism – they will regurgitate their meal in an effort to startle a predator and quickly reduce their body weight so that they can fly away faster. Turkey vultures also have an interesting way of keeping cool during hot days – they urinate on their feet! This is called ‘urohydrosis’, and causes the white coloration seen on their legs.

turkey vulture

Photo by: Rachael Tom

You can see the Academy’s turkey vulture on exhibit in the West Garden daily between 10:00 am and 2:30 pm and meet the biologists that care for him Tue-Thurs at 2pm. Here is a picture of him preening his feathers to look his very best for your next visit:

turkey vulture

Photo by: Rachael Tom

Filed under: Birds — rainforest @ 2:54 pm

May 6, 2010

Meet Fred & a few other happenings

One of the great joys of working in the rainforest exhibit here at the Academy is there are some really neat species plus there are always new things happening.

I’d like to introduce Fred, our bird’s nest Anthurium (Anthurium spp). Anthuriums are a wide-spread neotropical genera that have adapted to lots of niches, from epiphytic to terrestrial. There are some Anthuriums that are common in the horticulture industry. Fred is one of my favorite plant specimens in our exhibit, due to its unique structure and size. Fred is in a planter on the Costa Rica level (3rd floor) of the rainforest…come check it out on your next visit!

Fred the Anthurium

Photo by: Rachael Tom

Fred II

Photo by: Rachael Tom

We have two new additions to our bananaquit (Coereba flaveola) population. One of our two pairs has recently fledged two offspring. After an incubation of about two weeks and another two weeks in their nest before they flew out, the little birds are now exploring their environment. Check out this great photo of one of the parents (on the left) feeding a fledgling.

bananaquits

Photo by: Rachael Tom

We also have an opal-rumped tanager (Tangara velia) incubating two eggs on her nest. Opal-rumped tanagers are one of the twelve species of passerine birds we have in our rainforest here at the Academy. Here she is sitting on her nest…she should be sitting tight for another 10 days.

opal rump

Photo by: Rachael Tom

Filed under: Birds,Plants — rainforest1 @ 2:59 pm

March 24, 2010

Babies! Babies! Babies!

Silver-beaked eggs

Our Silver-beaked Tanagers (Ramphocelus carbo) are our most successful breeding bird species in the rainforest. So far our adult male and two females have produced eight healthy chicks. Four have already gone to live at other institutions in Seattle and Memphis. One of our adult females laid two eggs on March 16th. She can be seen sitting on her nest in the Peach Palm (Bactris gasipaes), canopy level. With an incubation time of approximately 10 – 14 days, we expect the chicks to hatch sometime around March 28th.

Peach Palm


Filed under: Birds — Vikki McCloskey @ 12:35 pm
Next Page »

The Rainforest Team

   

Academy biologists share the inside scoop on the Academy's 'Rainforest of the World' exhibit.

Academy Blogroll