Chick It Out: Penguins Hatch At Maryland Zoo


The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore announced the arrival of the first two chicks of the 2015-2016 African Penguin breeding season.

12239281_10150584014964987_6213476884560133968_oPhoto Credit:  Maryland Zoo in Baltimore

The chicks hatched on November 5 and November 9 to experienced parents Mega and Rossi. “Breeding season started in September with many of our penguins developing and defending their respective nests,” said Jen Kottyan, avian collection and conservation manager. “We are very excited to see these first two hatch and thrive under these proven Penguin parents.” The chicks, each weighing less than ¾ pound, are nesting comfortably with their parents.

Penguin chicks hatch 38 to 42 days after the eggs are laid. Zoo keepers monitor development of the eggs by candling them about a week after they are laid to see if they are fertile and developing. The eggs are then placed back with the parents. “With African Penguins, both the male and the female take turns sitting on the eggs,” said Kottyan. “Once the eggs hatch, parents take turns caring for their offspring; they each protect, feed, and keep the chick or chicks warm for 2-3 days and then switch off.”

After hatching, chicks stay with their parents for about three weeks and are fed regurgitated fish from both of their parents. During this time, zoo keepers and veterinarians keep a close eye on the development of the chicks, weighing and measuring them daily for the first week to make sure that the parents are properly caring for each chick.  When a chick is three weeks old, the keepers begin hand rearing the chick to start to teach it that keepers are their source of food and to acclimate them to human interaction.  “Over the years we have found that beginning the hand- rearing process at three weeks gives the chicks a great head start with their development,” continued Kottyan. “They will still retain the natural instincts of a wild penguin, while allowing us to properly care for them.”

When the chicks are between six and eight weeks old, they lose their downy feathers and become covered in the grey plumage that distinguishes juvenile Penguins from the adults. At this time, they begin to learn how to swim and will then be slowly introduced to the rest of the Penguin colony.

The Maryland Zoo has been a leader in breeding African penguins for over 40 years and  has the largest colony of the birds in North America, with over 60 birds currently residing at the zoo. “Our penguins are bred according to recommendations from the AZA African Penguin Species Survival Plan which helps maintain their genetic diversity,” said Kottyan. “Many of the African Penguins previously bred at the Zoo now inhabit zoo and aquarium exhibits around the world.”

African Penguins are native to the coast of southern Africa.  They are listed as Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.  The wild population has decreased by 90% in the last 100 years.  At one time, these birds’ eggs were over-collected and their nest sites were disturbed due to mining for guano (accumulated seabird droppings).  Today, oil spills and over fishing are the main threats.

Penguin Chick's Name May Stick Like Glue

A Black-footed Penguin chick hatched at the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas was named for the glue used to repair its shell, which cracked during incubation.

Photo Credit:  Audubon Aquarium of the Americas

Elmer, as keepers are temporarily calling the chick, hatched on August 31 and was reared by zoo keepers behind the scenes – a routine practice that allows the Penguins to become accustomed to daily hand feedings. 

Elmer’s name may not stick, though, because keepers don’t know yet if the chick is male or female.  They’ll determine its gender in a few months. 

Though less than months old, Elmer has grown rapidly, as all Penguins do.  Elmer’s downy feathers will soon begin to fall out in a process called molting, and they’ll be replaced by the sleek gray feathers of a juvenile Black-footed Penguin.  Until those feathers come in and Elmer is able to swim, the young Penguin is segregated from the rest of the flock and most importantly, the exhibit pool. For now, Elmer can see the Penguin flock through a Plexiglas partition.

To maximize genetic diversity among zoo-dwelling birds, Black-footed Penguins are managed by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums Species Survival Plan.  Elmer is the second chick for parents Millicent and Puddles.  

Native to southern Africa, Black-footed Penguins are listed as Vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.  Populations have decreased dramatically in the last decades as Penguins' prey has been reduced by overfishing, and oil spills have killed thousands of birds.

See more photos of Elmer below.

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Gentoo Penguin Chicks Hatch at Tennessee Aquarium

1_Baby Penguins at the TN Aquarium 2015

Three baby Gentoo Penguins are warming the hearts of Tennessee Aquarium guests this summer. Like the Macaroni Penguin, which was the first to hatch at the Aquarium in 2015, this trio has made remarkable progress since they first arrived at the end of June.

Two of the chicks are actually siblings, but are being raised by different penguin mothers. “When Bug and Big T’s first egg hatched, they were having a tough time keeping both the second egg and the chick underneath them,” said senior aviculturist Loribeth Lee. “Biscuit and Blue did not have a viable egg this year, so we were able to move the second egg into their nest. It hatched a couple of days later and they have done a beautiful job caring for their adopted chick.”

2_Baby Gentoo Penguins at the TN Aquarium 2015


4_IMG_5700Photo Credits: Tennessee Aquarium

This is the first time a baby penguin has been raised at the Aquarium by surrogate parents. In the past, aviculturists have supplemented feedings for any chicks that were not receiving enough nourishment from their parents. “We always prefer to let the parents raise their chicks, but we’ll intervene whenever necessary,” said Lee. “Since Biscuit and Blue have been diligent parents in the past, we believed they would do a great job caring for Bug and Big T’s chick and they have.”

In addition to their rapid growth, the three newest Gentoos are now showing their individuality. The experts caring for them say these penguins have personalities that range from passive to positively pecky. “The chick in Biscuit and Blue’s nest acts pretty mellow, preferring to hide its head under mom or dad,” said Lee. “Bug and Big T’s other chick is pretty perky and active, but nothing like Nipper’s chick. He acts feisty just like his father and loves to bite and squawk a lot.”

These traits will be interesting for Aquarium guests to watch over time. Lee and the other experts spend quite a bit of time pointing out the chicks and talking about their lives during penguin programs, which take place at 10:30am and 1:30pm each day.

The gender of the penguin chicks will be determined later this fall when every bird in the colony undergoes a thorough physical examination. A blood sample will be collected from the juvenile birds that will be sent to a lab for DNA testing to determine whether the new additions are male or female. A naming contest on the Aquarium’s Facebook page will begin after the genders are announced.

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Humboldt Penguin Chicks Stick Together at Paradise Park

Penguin Chicks at Paradise Park Hayle Cornwall

Staff at Paradise Park, in Hayle, Cornwall, UK, are delighted to have baby Humboldt Penguin chicks.

Curator David Woolcock said, “These two wonderful little characters are proving very popular with visitors. They are now ten weeks old and have been given the Peruvian names Miski and Aurora.”

Penguin Chicks at Paradise Park Hayle Cornwall 2

Penguin Chick and Keeper at Paradise Park HAyle Cornwall

Young Penguin chicks at Paradise Park CornwallPhoto Credits: Paradise Park

David continued, “They eat around 200g of fresh fish a day and are being hand-reared, as the eggs were laid outside the nesting caves and not protected from weather or disturbance.”

“Another younger chick, called Poppy, was not putting on enough weight when she was with her parents, so the decision was taken to hand-rear her as well. One other chick is being successfully reared by its parents in the nest.”

When chicks are in the nest they have fluffy grey down feathers. It takes about three months for them to leave their nests, and by this time they have developed the waterproof plumage they need for swimming. Juveniles are grey and white, only developing the distinctive black and white penguin plumage at a year old. The pattern of dark speckles, on their lower chest, is unique to each individual penguin.

Miski and Aurora are now being introduced to the Humboldt Penguin group at Paradise Park, and they are making regular appearances at the twice daily feeding times.

The Humboldt Penguin is native to South America and breeds in coastal Chile and Peru. Its nearest relatives are the African Penguin, the Magellanic Penguin, and the Galapagos Penguin. Its name is derived from the cold water current it swims in, which is named after explorer Alexander von Humboldt.

Humboldt Penguins are medium sized, growing to 22 to 28 inches (56 to 70 cm) long and a weight of 8 to 13 lbs (3.6 to 5.9 kg).

They are currently classified as “Vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened and Endangered Species. Their declining population is due to several factors: over-fishing, climate change, and ocean acidification. The Humboldt Penguin population is also losing numbers due to habitat destruction.

Young Penguin chick at Paradise Park Cornwall

Look Who's Hatching: Endangered African Penguin Chick



Photo credit: Dave Parkinson

Home to the only breeding colony of African Penguins in the state of Florida, Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo has welcomed chick number 9 to its rookery of 15 endangered Penguins.

In addition to helping to raise the number of penguins in the managed population in North America, Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo also helps to support the wild penguin population by partnering with organizations in South Africa dedicated to protecting coastal penguin habitats.

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Rockin’ New Penguin Chick at Shedd Aquarium

1_Rockhopper Penguin Chick 5

Shedd Aquarium welcomed a Rockhopper Penguin Chick on June 9, 2015. The chick hatched to parents Edward and Annie, following penguin-breeding season in March. The yet-to-be-named penguin weighed 57 grams at birth and came in at 200 grams at a recent weigh-in; full growth is expected after about two to three months. Until the aquarium decides on a name, the tiny bird is being referred to as “Chick #23”. 

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3_Rockhopper Penguin Chick 2

4_Rockhopper Penguin Chick 3Photo Credit: Brenna Hernandez /Shedd Aquarium ; Video Credit: Sam Cejtin /Shedd Aquarium

Chick #23 has been attempting to preen its soft, down-like plumage, which is one milestone Shedd’s animal care team looks for to assess the growth of the bird. While there are no observable sex differences in Rockhopper Penguins, a genetic test after one year of age will determine whether the chick is a boy or a girl.

Guests can try to spot Chick #23 in Shedd’s Polar Play Zone, where it’s currently in its nest with its parents. It will be another month or so before the chick begins to wander on its own.

Shedd Aquarium houses two types of penguins in the Polar Play Zone exhibit: Rockhoppers (Eudyptes chrysocome) and Magellanics (Spheniscus magellanicus). The Rockhopper is the smaller, yet more eccentric penguin of the two breeds.

Rockhopper Penguins are listed as “Vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Since 1991, Shedd has been part of a successful penguin breeding program and has contributed to a variety of global rescue efforts. Chick #23 is one of more than 30 Rockhopper Penguins currently at Shedd.

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New African Penguin at California Academy of Sciences


Biologists at the California Academy of Sciences recently announced that a new African Penguin chick hatched on May 4. The 16-day-old chick is currently bonding, behind-the-scenes, with dad, ‘Robben’, and mom, ‘Ty’. The new chick will join the rest of the colony, on exhibit, in the coming months. The Academy will also announce the chick’s gender and name, via social media, in the next few weeks.



4_May_Chick-8422Photo Credits: California Academy of Sciences

African Penguins were classified as an endangered species in 2010 and are at very high risk of extinction in the wild. This new arrival represents the fourth African Penguin chick to hatch at the Academy this year, as part of an Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan (SSP). SSP programs are aimed at maintaining genetic diversity of captive populations through controlled breeding and collaborative exchange of offspring among AZA partner zoos and aquariums. The Academy has a long and successful history of breeding African Penguins as part of the SSP program for this species. 

The Association of Zoos and Aquariums recently launched a new program. “AZA SAFE: Saving Animals From Extinction” is AZA’s newest conservation initiative. It is aimed at saving endangered species by restoring healthy populations in the wild. AZA SAFE will leverage the collective expertise and resources of the AZA member community, which includes 229 AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums across the country, to increase conservation outcomes and impact and engage the public.

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Dozens Of Babies Steal The Show At Cincinnati Zoo

2015-04-02 Lion Cubs 1 626The Cincinnati Zoo is celebrating a baby bonanza – dozens of babies have been born at the zoo in the past few months.  In fact, there are so many babies that the zoo is celebrating “Zoo Babies” month in May.Kea

2015-03-16 MonaJeffMcCurryPhoto Credit:  Cassandre Crawford, Jeff McCurry, Cincinnati Zoo

All the little ones have kept their parents – and zoo keepers – busy.  The three female African Lion cubs are particularly feisty, testing their “grrrl” power on a daily basis with their father John and mother Imani. 

Other babies include three Bonobos, two Gorillas, a Bongo, a Serval, two Capybaras, a Rough Green Snake, Giant Spiny Leaf Insects, Thorny Devils, Little Penguin chicks and Kea chicks.  “This is the largest and most varied group of babies we’ve had. We’re particularly excited about the successes we’ve had with the endangered African Painted Dogs and the hard-to-breed Kea,” said Thane Maynard, Cincinnati Zoo Executive Director.

See more photos of Cincinnati's Zoo's babies below.

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Eight Fuzzy Penguin Chicks Hatch At Chester Zoo

PenguinChicks-19The first Humboldt Penguin chicks of 2015 have emerged from their eggs at Chester Zoo.

Weighing only two ounces, baby chick Panay – named after an exotic island in the Philippines – was the first of eight to hatch at the zoo.  The next seven hatchlings were named after other islands: Papua, Bali, Sumatra, Sulawesi, Sumba, Java, and Tuma.

PenguinChicks-18Photo Credit:  Chester Zoo
Since the chicks hatched, zookeepers have been carefully observing their nutrition, weight, and development in the nest.  The chicks are weighed daily, and their parents receive extra fish so they can feed their new babies.  It’s working – some of the chicks weigh seven times their hatch weight after only a few weeks.

Each pair of the South American species, which come from the coastal areas of Peru and Chile, lays two eggs and incubates them for 40 days. Both parents help rear the young until they are fully fledged, before making their tentative first splash in the pool with the rest of the colony.  Humboldt Penguins are named after the chilly Humboldt current that parallels South America's west coast and carries abundant marine life.

Of the world’s 17 Penguin species, Humboldt Penguins are among the most at risk, being classified as Vulnerable to extinction by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.  Their decline is due in part to extensive mining of guano beds.  The guano beds, consisting of hundreds of years of accumulated bird droppings, make excellent fertilizer.  But the Penguins need the guano beds as nesting grounds, so when the guano is removed, the Penguins have nowhere to nest.  Overfishing of the Penguins’ prey species, climate change, and rising acidity levels in the ocean also contribute to their decline.

See more photos of the chicks below.

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Little Blue Penguins Hatch at Cincinnati Zoo


The Cincinnati Zoo is home to five species of penguins, and their colony of Blue Penguins recently increased their census with the hatching of their newest chicks!




Photo Credits: Cassandre Crawford/ Cincinnati Zoo

The Blue Penguin (also known as: Little Blue Penguin, Fairy Penguin, or Little Penguin) is the smallest species of penguin. It is native to the coastlines of southern Australia and New Zealand. They grow to an average of about 13 inches (33 cm) in height and 17 inches (43 cm) in length. Their name alludes to their slate-blue plumage.

Blue Penguins are diurnal and spend the biggest part of their day swimming and foraging for food at sea. During breeding and chick rearing seasons, they leave their nests at sunrise, forage for food throughout the day and return to nest just after dusk. Blue Penguins rub tiny drops of oil, from a gland above their tail, onto every feather. This task of preening with oil helps keep their feathers waterproof while swimming.

Blue Penguins mature at different ages. A female will mature at around two-years, and a male will, however, reach maturity at about three-years-old.  They remain faithful to their partner during breeding season and hatching. They will swap burrows at other times of the year, but they also exhibit site fidelity to their own nesting colony.

Nests are situated close to the sea in burrows excavated by the birds or other species. They will also nest in caves, rock crevices, under logs or in a variety of man-made structures (nest boxes, pipes, stacks of wood, buildings). They are the only species of penguin capable of producing more than one clutch of eggs per breeding season. The one or two, white or mottled brown, eggs are generally laid from July to mid-November. Incubation can take up to 36 days, and the chicks are brooded for 18-38 days. They fledge after 7-8 weeks.

The Blue Penguin is classified as “Least Concern” on the IUCN Red List. However, their populations are threatened by a variety of terrestrial creatures, such as: cats, dogs, rats, foxes, and large reptiles. Due to their diminutive size, some colonies have been reduced in size by as much as 98% in just a few years. A small colony near Warrnambool, Victoria, Australia was reduced from approximately 600 penguins in 2001 to less than 10 in 2005. Because of this threat, conservationists pioneered an experimental technique using Maremma Sheepdogs to protect the colony and fend of potential predators.