It's that time of year again! At the very end of May, the pegnuin colony at the San Francisco Zoo hatched several Magellanic penguin chicks. One of the keepers managed to get rare footage of one of them just hours after it came into the world. That video is below.
Young penguins first exchange their silvery down for an immature set of soft gray feathers without the distinctive striping of the adult. They molt into their “tuxedo” in their second year. After training at the Zoo's Fish School, where they will learn to swim and fish during the first few months of their lives, the chicks will march to their new residence at Penguin Island. There they will join over fifty other penguins who live at the colony. This much anticipated March of the Penguins event occurs annually and is quite a sight!
The video below of a just hatched penguin chick is rare. Normally parents will not let anyone or anything as close as this. You can only get an idea of how tiny the chick near the end, when the parent sticks it's beak and head into the frame!
There are still approximately 1.3 million pairs of wild Magellanic penguins on the coasts of Argentina and Chile, but the large breeding colonies are vulnerable to oil spills, destructive guano mining (for the manufacture of fertilizers) and declining fish populations. As a result of these pressures, Magellanic penguins are considered “near threatened.” Oil pollution alone is thought to kill more than 42,000 penguins every year along the Argentine coast, and El Nino Southern Oscillation events may cause considerable disruption to breeding cycles, as fish stocks (upon which parent birds depend to feed their young) change drastically during El Nino. As global climates change, penguins may be in serious danger; shifts in the marine food web directly affect these amazing predators.