March of the Baby Penguin
December 22, 2009
Spoiler Alert: plot elements from the film Happy Feet revealed below! ;) Keepers at The U.K.'s Edinburgh Zoo are celebrating the arrival of a King Penguin chick. The chick, which is almost two months old, is the first King Penguin to be born at the Zoo in five years.
King penguins lay one egg per breeding season and, instead of keeping it on a nest, the parents tuck the egg under their belly and rest it on their feet. The parents take turns to look after the egg and gently roll it between them to transfer it. After 56 days the eggs will hatch. Newly hatched chicks stay on the parent’s feet for the first month.
Read on for more pics and a video...
King penguins are notoriously difficult to breed. If a king penguin lays an egg the others can become jealous and try and take the egg for themselves, resulting in the egg becoming damaged. To help protect the new chick, the keepers have fenced off the parents and the chick from the other king penguins. Recently, they have been letting the chick into the enclosure for an hour or so each day to gradually introduce it to the rest of the group.
The chick will be easy for visitors to spot as it’s covered in fluffy brown feathers. It will keep these feathers until it’s around 10 months old, after this time it will develop its waterproof black and white coat. The chick still doesn’t have a name as it’s still too young to tell if it’s a boy or a girl.
Edinburgh Zoo is world famous for its penguins, being the first zoo ever to exhibit and breed them. This is why Edinburgh Zoo has a penguin as its logo. It was the arrival of three king penguins from a Christian Salvesen Whaling expedition in January 1914, and the subsequent first successful hatching of a king penguin chick in 1919, that made the Zoo famous all over the world, for these were the first penguins ever seen outside their South Atlantic homeland.
Lynda Burrill, Penguin Keeper, said:
“This chick was a total surprise to us. King penguins normally lay eggs in June and July but this egg arrived in late August. In October the chick started to break out of the egg and a couple of days later the new arrival emerged! It’s a feisty little character – if one of the other adults gets too close it will stand up for itself and have a peck at them. It will hopefully be fully integrated into the group in the next week or so.”
About King Penguins at Edinburgh Zoo
- There are now 11 king penguins at Edinburgh Zoo. Eight males, two females and the chick.
- Edinburgh Zoo is home to the most famous king penguin in the world, Sir Nils Olav. In 1972, the chosen king penguin was awarded the ‘rank’ of Lance Corporal and named Nils Olav (after Nils Egelien and Norway’s then King Olav). On subsequent visits to the Scottish capital Nils was promoted to Corporal in 1982, Sergeant (1987), regimental Sergeant Major (1993), Honourable Regimental Sergeant Major (2001), Honorary Colonel-in-Chief in 2005 and Sir in August 2008.
- Edinburgh Zoo has the largest penguin pool in the world.
- The Zoo also has a penguin parade every day. The penguin parade began in 1951 when a keeper accidentally left the gate open. The penguins went for a short walk and then returned to their enclosure. The tradition still continues today and is very popular with visitors to the Zoo.
- The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland donated over £45,000 since 2004 to finance a project protecting penguin nest sites in the Falklands. With more visitors than ever, this penguin-breeding site is under increasing pressure of disturbance.
- The king penguin is the animal in the Zoo with the most adopters.
- Edinburgh Zoo is a member of the British and Irish Association of Birds and Aquariums (BIAZA).
- Edinburgh Zoo is owned by the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, a registered charity, charity no SC004064.
- The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, established in 1909, is currently celebrating its centenary year.
About King Penguins
- King penguins are found on the islands of the Antarctic continent. They have pads of fat underneath their skin to protect them from the harsh environment. All penguins have dark backs and white fronts to camouflage them from fish and predators.
- Penguins eat a variety of fish such as pilchards, sardines, anchovies and krill.
- King penguins lay one egg per breeding season and, instead of keeping it on a nest, the parents tuck the egg under their belly and rest it on their feet. The parents take turns to look after the egg and gently roll it between them to transfer it. After 56 days the eggs will hatch. Newly hatched chicks stay on the parent’s feet for the first month.
- The lifespan on a king penguin is approximately 20 years.