NaturZoo Rheine considers themselves very lucky to be able to announce the hatching and rearing of nine Humboldt Penguin chicks this year.
NaturZoo’s breeding success with this species has been so huge over the past four decades, their Humboldt Penguin’s, known as “made in Rheine”, are spread all over Europe. Care must be given for a balanced distribution of bloodlines.
After brooding for 40 days, all of the eggs from this season have hatched. At an age of approximately six-weeks, the young penguins have now moved from their parents’ den nests to the “kindergarten” or crèche.
When they have successfully completed kindergarten and have molted to the first full plumage, the young Humboldt Penguins will return to the colony or move to another zoo.
The Humboldt Penguin (Spheniscus humboldti) (also known as the Chilean Penguin, Peruvian Penguin, or Patranca) is a South American penguin that breeds in coastal Chile and Peru. Its nearest relatives are the African Penguin, the Magellanic Penguin and the Galápagos Penguin. The penguin is named after the cold water current it swims in, which is named after Alexander von Humboldt, an explorer.
Humboldt Penguins are medium-sized, growing to 56–70 cm (22–28 in) long and a weight of 3.6-5.9 kg (8-13 lbs). They have a black head with a white border that runs from behind the eye, around the black ear-coverts and chin, and joins at the throat. They have blackish-grey upper parts and whitish underpants, with a black breast-band that extends down the flanks to the thigh. Juveniles have dark heads and no breast-band. They have spines on their tongue, which they use to hold their prey.
Humboldt’s nest on islands and rocky coasts, burrowing holes in guano and sometimes using scrapes or caves.
Penguins, for the most part, breed in large colonies. Living in colonies results in a high level of social interaction between birds, which has led to a large repertoire of visual as well as vocal displays in all penguin species.
Penguins form monogamous pairs for a breeding season. Most penguins lay two eggs in a clutch. With the exception of the Emperor Penguin, where the male does it all, all penguins share the incubation duties. These incubation shifts can last days, and even weeks, as one member of the pair feeds at sea.
Penguins generally only lay one brood; the exception is the Little Penguin, which can raise two or three broods in a season.
Penguin eggs are smaller than any other bird species, when compared proportionally to the weight of the parent birds. The relatively thick shell forms between 10 and 16% of the weight of a penguin egg, presumably to minimize the risk of breakage in an adverse nesting environment. The yolk, too, is large, and comprises 22–31% of the egg. Some yolk often remains when a chick is born, and is thought to help sustain the chick if the parents are delayed in returning with food.
When mothers lose a chick, they sometimes attempt to "steal" another mother's chick, usually unsuccessfully as other females in the vicinity assist the defending mother in keeping her chick. In some species, such as Emperor Penguins, young penguins assemble in large groups called crèches.
Due to a declining population caused in part by over-fishing, climate change, and ocean acidification, the Humboldt Penguin is classified as “Vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List.