Woodland Park Zoo’s breeding season for Humboldt Penguins has closed with the successful hatching of two chicks.
Incubation for penguins takes 40 to 42 days, with both parents sharing incubation duties in the nest and day-to-day care for their chicks.
The new chicks bring the total number of successful hatchings of the species at the zoo to 70 since the zoo’s first breeding season in 2010, a year after the penguin habitat opened. The sex of the chicks is unknown until DNA testing can be conducted.
The chicks are off exhibit in nesting burrows where they are under the care of the parents. To ensure they are achieving growth milestones, staff weighs them as they develop with minimal intervention to allow the parents to raise their chicks and gain parental experience.
The first chick hatched April 5 to mom, Claudia, and dad, Cortez; it is the third offspring for the parents. The second chick hatched May 1 and was placed under the care of foster parents, Mateo and Mini; the biological parents were moved to an aquarium under a breeding recommendation made by the Humboldt Penguin Species Survival Plan, a cooperative, conservation breeding program across accredited zoos to help ensure a healthy, self-sustaining population of penguins.
Before new chicks reach fledging age and go outdoors on exhibit, they are removed from the nest so animal keepers can condition the birds to approach them for hand feeding and other animal care activities. The chicks also are given round-the-clock access to a shallow pool where they can swim in a more controlled and less crowded environment. New chicks join the colony in the outdoor habitat sometime in early summer.
People do not usually think of penguins as a desert-dwelling species. Unlike their ice and snow-dwelling Antarctic cousins, Humboldt Penguins (Spheniscus humboldti) inhabit hot, dry coastlines in Peru and Chile. They live on rocky mainland shores, especially near cliffs, or on coastal islands. Humboldt Penguins have a body made to swim. Using their strong wings, they “fly” underwater, usually just below the surface, at speeds of up to 20 miles per hour. They steer with their feet and tail.
Humboldt Penguins are currently classified as “Vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List. Approximately 30,000 to 35,000 survive in their natural range. Woodland Park Zoo is committed to conserving Humboldt Penguins by supporting the Humboldt Penguin Conservation Center at Punta San Juan, Peru, breeding the birds through the Species Survival Plan, and encouraging visitors to choose sustainable seafood options as directed by Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program. Punta San Juan is home to 5,000 Humboldt Penguins, the largest colony in Peru.