African Black-Footed Penguin Growing Up Quickly at the Adventure Aquarium

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Adventure Aquarium's penguin colony grew by one last month when they welcomed an African Black-Footed Penguin chick on January 11th. The little critter, whose gender is still unknown, was about the size of a golf ball and weighted just sixty grams when it first hatched. That did not last long however, as the little one is growing faster than keepers can keep track. By January 25th, just two weeks after pecking its way out of its egg, the chick had already exploded to a weight of over one and a quarter pounds and now stands over six inches tall.

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The baby is the first for parents Kali and Tyson who were paired for breeding by the Association of Zoo and Aquarium's (AZA) African Penguin Species Survival Plan (SSP). They have a tall order caring for their rapidly growing first-born who is dependent on them for warmth until it can regulate its own temperature at around one month old. Until then, Kali and Tyson will take turns incubating the baby and brining back food for their growing child.

The African Black-Footed Penguin, the only penguin species found in Africa, was once quite abundant with an estimated four million in existence at the beginning of the 20th century. That number dropped dramatically to 200,000 by the year 2000 and has continued to fall to an estimated 55,000 living today. This rapid decline has led to a classification of endangered on the IUCN's Red List. It is estimated that if this trend continues the species will be extinct in the next fifteen years. With such a imperiled future, every birth can be considered a victory.

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Penguin Baby Boom at Seneca Park Zoo


The African Black-footed Penguin flock at the Seneca Park Zoo grew by five chicks in the past month. October through April is the peak nesting season and these tiny additions need lots of help from their caretakers.  The Penguins pictured here range from one day to 18 days old.

On top of the normal two feedings a day, parents who are rearing chicks are offered extra fish daily. Zoo keepers diligently record fish intake, making sure each parent has enough to sustain themselves as well as their offspring. Every other day (from hatch to day 80 – when chicks are weaned from their parents) the Penguin chicks are weighed. If at any time a chick falls below an acceptable weight, night feedings are incorporated into the program.




Photo Credit: Photo 1, Kelli O’Brien, Photo 2,3,4: Kara Masaschi

On the days chicks are weighed, keepers also perform a mini physical exam: eyes should be bright and free of discharge, the chick should be vocal and alert, and after a couple of weeks they should be relatively mobile. Just as they would in the wild, parents do all the work, from the moment the egg is laid until the chick is weaned. That said, keepers are the first line of defense if something doesn’t seem quite right within these first, fragile few weeks of life.

In 2010, the African Black-footed Penguin was listed as an endangered species. In the early 1900s, the wild population was estimated at more than 1.5 million individuals. Today about 20,000 birds remain, with a 60% loss of population within the past 30 years. This is largely due to food base declines, competition with the fishing industry and Cape fur seals, as well as a major shift in prey due to changes in their ecosystem. Habitat destruction and oil spills have also contributed greatly to the decline in the African Black-footed Penguin population.

In an effort aimed to help their species, the Penguins at Seneca Park Zoo are carefully managed by a Species Survival Program (SSP). This program is a collaborative effort among AZA accredited zoos and aquariums in North America to breed the most genetically diverse population of this Penguin species.


Now There's Three Little Penguin Chicks at Moody Gardens!

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Photo Credit: Moody Gardens

Another little Penguin chick has hatched at Moody Gardens, making him the third baby this season for parents Ren and Garfield. You may have read about the first two, who were born on Thanksgiving Day, a few weeks ago on Zooborns. 

This new baby Gentoo Penguin came into the family earlier this week, and currently weighs 221 grams. And he's growing fast. Here you can watch him along with sibling Quinn and Raye, a must-see video. 

Adult Gentoo Penguins have distinctive white patches above the eye area and white speckling in the adjacent black plumage around their heads. They also have yellow feet, making them unique in the Moody Gardens collection. These new additions made it the eighth straight year that Moody Gardens has successfully bred a Gentoo Penguin. 

Penguin Chick Growing Fast at the Little Rock Zoo

Penguin Chick 2 Days Old Cerdit Hannah Baker 2

An endangered African Black-Footed Penguin chick at the Little Rock Zoo is on a mission – to eat, eat, and eat so he can grow, grow, and grow!  So far, the strategy is working.  This little chick, who weighed just 2 ounces (54 grams) at two days old (top photo), now weighs more than a pound (450 grams) at five weeks of age (bottom photo).

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Like many young birds, Penguin chicks eat huge amounts of food in relation to their body weight and grow rapidly.  This allows the chicks to become self-sufficient at a young age, relieving mom and dad of the burden of constant feedings. 

The zoo’s new arrival is the first chick for parents Skipper and Easy.  He does not yet have a name.   The chick’s arrival increases the zoo’s Penguin flock to 16 birds.

African Black-Footed Penguins are native to the rocky coastlines of southern Africa and nearby islands.  African Penguins once numbered more than 1.5 million, but there are fewer than 200,000 birds today.  The harvesting of Penguin eggs, loss of habitat, and repeated oil spills have taken a toll on the population, and the African Penguin is now considered endangered.

Photo Credits:  Hannah baker (top), Stephanie Hollister (center), Little Rock Zoo (bottom)

First Penguins of the Season Hatch on Thanksgiving Day at Moody Gardens

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The staff of Moody Gardens in Texas had two new reasons to be thankful with the hatching of two Gentoo Penguin chicks during Thanksgiving weekend. Their parents, like all the Penguins in the collection, are identified by number-to-document statistics. Technically 404 and 415, the parents go by the names Stimpy and Porky. They've had chicks in the past but these two are the first of the season.

"We discovered the new chick at approximately 9:00 a.m. on Thanksgiving day,” said Moody Gardens biologist Hector Morale. “As we were changing light bulbs and cleaning inside the exhibit, the parents stood up and we found the chick tucked beneath them in the nest.” The next day, staff noticed the second egg.

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Photo Credit: Moody Gardens

The Penguins currently weigh in at 165 and 344 grams. Tests will be taken at a later date to determine their gender. Penguin chicks grow fast and will become full-grown in just eight weeks. The new chicks will be named in a Moody Gardens’ Facebook fan page contest launched yesterday. Click that link if you'd like to particiapte. In the mean time, you can watch the penguins on the Live Penguin Cam, if you aren't able to visit in person.

Read more about Penguins after the fols!

Continue reading "First Penguins of the Season Hatch on Thanksgiving Day at Moody Gardens" »

New Penguin Chick at Perth Zoo Growing Up Fast!


This little Penguin chick hatched at Perth Zoo on July 29. Its parents took turns sitting on the egg and caring for the chick in their burrow. And once it hatched, they provided excellent care; the chick grew very quickly, weighing over 1 kg by the time it was five weeks old. These photos were taken weekly, starting on July 20 when the chick was one day old, ending at the age of five weeks. Very soon the chick will emerge from the burrow, ready to take its first swim! Its sex is still not known. 

Penguins are found around the southern coast of Australia and around New Zealand. While listed as Least Concern by the IUCN Red List, they are threatened by changes to their coastal environments, predation by dogs, cats, foxes and rats, and become entangled in discarded fishing line and plastic bags. Perth Zoo is part of a regional breeding program for the species and has had many successful births over the years. 


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Photo Credit: Perth Zoo

Gentoo Penguin Trio Debuts at Tennessee Auqaiurm

A trio of Gentoo Penguin chicks is delighting guests at the Tennessee Aquarium.  Two chicks hatched on July 18 to different parents, and another chick hatched on July 30.  All three are on exhibit, so aquarium visitors can see the parents caring for and feeding the chicks throughout the day.

Aquarium aviculturist Loribeth Aldrich says the first 30 days are critical for young birds, but all three are doing well under their parents’ care. “So far the parents are feeding well and the chicks are all very vocal, seem strong and are all moving around the nests, but they still have a long road ahead,” said Aldrich.   She notes that the dynamic in the Penguin colony has changed with the chicks’ arrival.  “The parents are very protective of the chicks and their nests, but even the birds without chicks are still very excited about what’s going on in the other nests,” she said.



Senior aviculturist Amy Graves notes that for now, the adults sit right on top of the Penguin chicks in the nest.  “It’s just amazing to see such big birds sitting on such a tiny, fragile little chick in a rocky nest. They have to be so careful because one wrong move and they could injure the chick,” she said. 

Photo Credit:  Tennessee Aquarium
Video Credit:  Jane Corn

Continue reading "Gentoo Penguin Trio Debuts at Tennessee Auqaiurm" »

Penguin Chick a Special Delivery


A bundle of fluffy gray feathers arrived at the Fort Wayne Children's Zoo on June 26:  A tiny Black-footed Penguin hatched to mother Right Pink and father Left Pink. (The penguins are identified by colored bands on each wing.)

Though the Pinks have raised several chicks, this Penguin needed a little help entering the world.  A few days before hatching, the chick used its pointy temporary "egg tooth" (located on the top of its beak) to "pip" through both the internal egg membrane and the eggshell.  Normally, the chick would begin coming out of its shell at this point, but in this case, nothing happened.  "The veterinary staff ultimately helped the chick come out of the egg," says zoo keeper Nikki Finch.  "Mom and dad took the chick back right away and starting caring for it."

The Pinks are apparently doing a great job caring for their chick - its weight increased nearly sixfold, from 52 grams to 298 grams, in just 12 days!



Zoo guests won't be able to see the Penguin chick, whose gender is not yet known, for several months. "Right now, the chick is with the Pinks in the Penguins' night house," says Finch.  The chick will stay with its parents, dining on regurgitated fish, until it is 21 days old or weighs 500 grams.  "After that, we'll take over feeding the chick and train it to eat fish form our hand," says Finch.  Once the chick loses its fuzzy gray down and sports a nice set of waterproof feathers, it will return to the exhibit and meet the rest of the flock.

Black-footed Penguins are native to the coast of South Africa, where they are threatened by human activity.  At one time, nearly 4 million Balck-footed Penguins inhabited South Africa's coastal waters; today fewer than 55,000 remain.  Black-footed Penguins are managed by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums Species Survival Plan.

Photo Credit:  Fort Wayne Children's Zoo


Portly Penguin Chicks Waddle into Tennessee

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Tennessee Aquarium aviculturists (bird keepers!) have their hands full caring for a pair of Macaroni Penguin chicks. “These baby penguins are absolutely adorable with fuzzy flippers, oversized feet and pudgy little bellies,” said senior aviculturist Amy Graves. “They are portly, but that’s great. We like to see vocal chicks that spend a good part of their day begging their parents for food.”

The first baby was born on May 24th to parents Hercules and Shamrock. This is their first chick at the Aquarium and the parents appear to be very diligent, although they don’t share the same duties. “Hercules is the protector. He only feeds the chick about 10 percent of the time,” said aviculturist Loribeth Aldrich. “But he is constantly watching over the baby even when mom is in the nest.” Fortunately, Aldrich says Shamrock really has a strong feeding instinct that more than satisfies a very vocal, and very hungry chick. “Normally chicks will beg and beg for food, but I’ve actually seen her feed this chick so full that he just stops begging,” said Aldrich. “He’s like, I’ve had enough.” Aquarium guests can see this baby penguin near the center of the exhibit inside an acrylic “playpen” which keeps it from accidently going into the water before it grows large enough to do so safely.

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Paulie and Chaos, the Macaroni pair that successfully raised “Pepper” - the Aquarium’s first-ever baby penguin, are in a backup area with their chick. Paulie was involved in a scuffle with at least one other male early in the breeding season. “Aggressive behavior among males is not uncommon while they are building nests, so this couple was moved to a backup area for what was supposed to be a short time,” said Aldrich. “But when Chaos laid her second egg in this backup area, we decided they were comfortable enough to stay there until we saw what would happen with the egg. Now it looks like they’ll stay here until this chick is big enough to go on exhibit.” Both of the parents get time with the rest of the colony to swim and then they head back to feed and tend to their chick. As proven parents, they continue to feed this chick well.

Macaroni Penguin Chicks at Tennessee Aquarium 2Senior aviculturist Amy Graves and aviculturist Loribeth Aldrich hold the Tennessee Aquarium’s two new macaroni penguin babies

Keepers will continue to monitor the progress of both chicks closely as there are still many potential pitfalls for young birds to overcome. But if they continue to progress as quickly as they’ve started, Aquarium guests might see them outside the nests in a few weeks. “We’ll begin supervised walkabouts with the other penguins when their swim feathers grow in,” said Graves. “But even then we’ll have to see how the other birds react to the newcomers.”

Double the Fuzz: Two More Penguin Chicks Hatched at Toronto Zoo


The Toronto Zoo's African Penguin family is growing! Proud parents Colby and Greenbird have hatched two penguin chicks. The first chick hatched on March 29, and the second on April 1. The fuzzy little duo is now on exhibit for intervals throughout the day in the Zoo's African penguin house. They join African Penguin chick Eldon, who was born January 28, and the Zoo's 12 adult penguins on exhibit.

Penguin chicks "grow up" very quickly. To get an idea of how fast, the first picture is of Eldon at 6-days-old and the third is of one of the new chicks, at 26-days-old. You can read all about Eldon and learn in-depth about the Zoo's African Penguin program in our ZooBorns article from May 12.



Photo Credits: Toronto Zoo