Just three-and-a-half weeks after tens of thousands of viewers watched them hatch and grow via streaming nest camera, the National Aviary’s African Penguin chicks made their public debut, on January 8th.
On the morning of January 6, 2015, the penguin chicks were moved indoors to the National Aviary’s AvianCareCenter. A check-up by National Aviary Veterinarian, Dr. Pilar Fish, confirmed that both chicks are doing well.
Both chicks will be hand-reared in the AvianCareCenter, part of the National Aviary’s bird hospital, by experienced National Aviary staff. This is the third pair of penguin chicks in three years hatched at the National Aviary to penguin parents ‘Sidney’ and ‘Bette’.
National Aviary visitors can see the chicks up-close through a viewing window into the AvianCareCenter. Every day through early February, visitors can watch the chicks being fed and cared for by staff.
The sex of the chicks is not yet known. During the chicks’ first medical exam in December, while they were still living in the nest, feather samples were collected for each chick. The sex of immature African Penguins can only be determined with DNA testing. Feathers were sent to a lab for analysis; it will be another week before results are known.
When the sex is known, the National Aviary will launch an online auction so members of the public can bid on the opportunity to name one of the penguins.
The first chick hatched on December 15 and today is 24 days old weighing 727 grams. The second chick hatched December 18 and today weighs 548 grams. African Penguin chicks grow quickly. They will double, or even triple their weight week by week. By the time they reach full size, which takes about eight weeks, their weight will have increased by 2000%.
When these two chicks join the flock, the National Aviary’s Penguin Point exhibit will be home to nineteen African Penguins. African Penguins are a critically endangered species, with fewer than 20,000 remaining the wild. As part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums' (AZA) Species Survival Plan (SSP), the National Aviary’s penguins are part of an important breeding program to ensure a healthy population of African Penguins for future generations.
Hand-rearing the penguin chicks ensure that they will be ready to fulfill their future roles as ambassadors for their species in the National Aviary’s educational and interactive programs. Every year members of the Aviary’s African Penguin colony make over 100 visits to schools, libraries, community events, and non-profit fundraisers. Additionally, the penguins attend birthday parties, weddings, and take part in painting demonstrations at the National Aviary. In 2014 alone, more than 1,800 people participated in penguin encounters, opportunities for individuals and small groups to get up close to the penguins and learn more about them from the trainers who know them best.
Since its launch on December 12, 2014, the high-definition infrared nest camera, provided by M&P Security Solutions, received over 200,000 views from around the world. The National Aviary is humbled by the international attention and outpouring of support the nest cam has inspired. Photos and updates are being chronicled at www.aviary.org/babypenguins and a penguin baby shower has been set up at https://www.aviary.org/baby-penguin-donation for those interested in contributing to the penguins’ care.