Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium recently celebrated the hatchings of two Magellanic Penguin chicks. After their first well check examinations, veterinarians determined the pair is healthy and thriving. They are the first Penguin chicks to hatch at the Zoo since 2006.
The first of the new chicks arrived on May 23 and weighed 5.3 ounces at the first exam. The second chick hatched on May 25 and weighed 3.9 ounces, staff biologist Amanda Shaffer said. Each chick was tenderly placed on a towel in a lightweight container and weighed on a portable scale.
“They both look great and were quite active during their physical examinations,” said Zoo Veterinarian, Dr. Kadie Anderson, after the first well check exam. Anderson carefully examined each chick for overall body condition and energy and hydration levels to assess their health.
The hatchlings are the offspring of 7-year-old mother “Pink” and 7-year-old father “Red.” The Magellanic Penguins at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium are not named but rather are known by the colors of the identification bands on their wings.
“Pink and Red are attentive parents,” said Shaffer, the Zoo’s lead Penguin keeper. “Pink often keeps watch over the burrow while Red broods the chicks, keeping them warm with a special patch on his abdomen that allows them contact with his skin. The father also has exhibited protective behavior and vocalizations”, said Shaffer.
The new little family of four is currently on exhibit in the Penguin Point habitat at the Zoo, but spotting the chicks will take patience. They’re safely hidden under one of the parents while they’re being kept warm during the day, coming out occasionally for feeding. The parents feed the chicks a slurry of regurgitated fish after the adults have eaten herring and capelin.
Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium now has four male-female pairs of adult Penguins, and all have been sitting on eggs.
Parents incubate the eggs in shifts; they generally hatch between 38 and 42 days after they’re laid.
The hatchings are the result of a breeding recommendation through the Species Survival Plan® (SSP) for Magellanic Penguins (Spheniscus magellanicus). The medium-sized penguins, native to the South American shores of Argentina, Chile, Uruguay and Brazil, are listed as “Near Threatened” on the IUCN Red List, which the International Union for Conservation of Nature compiles to indicate the status of various species whose numbers are drastically dwindling in the wild.
Penguins are threatened in the wild by a number of factors, including the proliferation of plastics in the ocean, spills of oil and other hazardous materials, and overfishing.
To learn more about the Penguins, visit the Zoo’s website: www.pdza.org/magellanic-penguin .