If you saw Star Wars: The Last Jedi, you probably remember the little bug-eyed, brown and orange sea birds that inhabit the island where Luke Skywalker went into hiding. Called porgs, these creatures owe their existence to the real-life puffins that inhabit the Irish island of Skellig Michael, where the movie was filmed. There were too many birds flying around to digitally remove them all from the final film, so creature concept designer Jake Lunt Davies wrote them into the film as porgs, “influenced by a seal and a pug dog and the puffin,” he told StarWars.com.
Like ewoks before them, porgs are polarizing—some fans love their cuddly appearance; others wish Chewbacca had eaten them all. But if you’ve found yourself enamored, the Georgia Aquarium has a new exhibit that might pique your interest. The puffin exhibit, which opened January 19, features eight horned puffins, five tufted puffins, six common murres, and four pigeon guillemots. The exhibit is a partnership with the Alaskan SeaLife Center, with 21 of the sea birds coming from their Seward facility and two others arriving from the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, California.
The horned puffins look the most like the Atlantic puffins that inspired the porgs (and also likely what you imagine when you think of the word “puffin”). Tufted puffins are similar, but have all-black bodies and blonde “tufts” on their heads. The common murres appear more similar to penguins or ducks, and a pigeon guillemot looks a bit like a swimming pigeon. All four are actually members of the alcid family, which means, essentially, that they live in the Northern Hemisphere and can fly, but their short wings make it a tedious task. None of the birds are endangered but they do face threats from oil spills, fishing nets, and both global warming and toxins (mercury, cadmium) affecting their food sources, according to the aquarium.
The new exhibit, which is situated across from the equally adorable sea otters in the Cold Water Quest area, features an 11,000-gallon tank and rockwork designed to look like mountainous cliffsides. Entrance is included with normal aquarium admission, so use this as a perfect opportunity to teach your Star Wars-obsessed youngster about the real-life porg.