Rescued shorebird settles into new home at Aquarium

Sanderling rehabilitated after rescue by vacationing Aquarium staffer

new sanderling joins the New England Aquarium

The sanderling in the New England Aquarium’s Shorebird exhibit. CREDIT: New England Aquarium

BOSTON, MASS. (March 29, 2022) – An injured shorebird rescued by a New England Aquarium staffer is settling into her new home in Boston.

The female sanderling, named “Peepsqueak” by staff, had been recovering from a wing injury and just arrived to the Aquarium, where she will be on exhibit in the shorebird habitat.

Sarah Tempesta, the Aquarium’s Supervisor of Interactive Exhibits, was on vacation in York, ME, over Labor Day Weekend in 2021 when she spotted the injured sanderling walking on the beach. Sanderlings are small wading shorebirds in the sandpiper family.

“It clearly had an injured wing and was acting abnormal. I could see that it could not fly and likely would not survive without human intervention,” said Tempesta.

She contacted a local wildlife rehabilitation facility, the Center for Wildlife in Cape Neddick, and asked if they had room to care for the sanderling. The Center agreed to take the bird, at which point Tempesta—who had spent years working in the Aquarium’s Shorebird exhibit—caught the bird and used a beach cooler with a shirt draped atop to transport it to Cape Neddick. Knowing that it is rare for a bird that small with a wing injury to heal and be releasable into the wild, Tempesta told the Center for Wildlife that the New England Aquarium could likely provide the sanderling a long-term home.

“Within weeks, the Center contacted us to say the bird was recovering well but would never be able to fly again. They said they would love for the New England Aquarium to take it in, and we were super excited to care for another sandpiper,” said Alex Harvey, an aquarist on the Aquarium’s Changing Exhibits team.

Aquarium staff evaluated the exhibit space and population size, determining they could take in the sanderling, which is a species known for adapting well to human care. Plans came together to transfer the bird to Massachusetts, with permission from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The sanderling initially spent time acclimating at the Aquarium’s Animal Care Center in Quincy, MA, under a quarantine setting, where she settled in immediately and gained weight.

“Right away, the bird began digging in the sand, bathing herself, and looking for food. We helped her adjust to a more normal diet as our team continued her recovery,” said Kristen Ulrich, an aquarist in the Husbandry and Sustainability department.

Aside from the previous wing injury, a staff veterinarian found the bird to be healthy.

“The sanderling suffered broken bones near her wrist, and while those injuries healed in a few weeks, she has a permanent wing droop that prevents her from flying,” said Senior Veterinarian Dr. Kathy Tuxbury. “We have been very pleased to see how well this bird has adjusted to life at the New England Aquarium.”

The bird was transferred to the Aquarium’s main building on Central Wharf last week and has interacted well with staff and the resident birds. All of the shorebirds at the New England Aquarium are rescues that received rehabilitative care and are unable to survive in the wild. The Aquarium’s population includes several sandpipers, terns, and a piping plover—a threatened species. While sandpipers have a life expectancy of 10 to 15 years in the wild, they have been known to live into their 20s at the Aquarium.

MEDIA CONTACT:

Pam Bechtold Snyder – psnyder@neaq.org, 617-686-5068