Posted February 2017
We have two new Gentoo penguin chicks at the Zoo! Oscar and Fiona are the proud parents of the first chick, who hatched on January 4. The parents of the second chick, who hatched on January 9, are Felix and Olive.
Both sets of parents have reared chicks before, and both moms and dads alternate nest duties several times a day, taking turns feeding and caring for their chicks. As we do not yet know the sex of the chicks, they have not been named. A blood test will be done when the chicks are removed from the nests for weaning, at which time the sex can be determined.
The chicks will stay off exhibit for a period of time once they get a bit older and begin exploring beyond their nests. This typically occurs at around one month old, but is different for every chick. The chicks are covered with fuzzy down feathers, which—although makes them quite cute—prevent them from swimming very well. While they are being weaned from their parents and learning to hand-feed from zookeepers, they go through the molting phase in which adult plumage eventually replaces their “baby fuzz.”
The chicks will remain off-exhibit for safety reasons until they have molted into their adult, waterproof plumage. After this occurs, they will be reintroduced to the exhibit, gradually learning about the pool, feeding time, interacting with the other birds in the exhibit, and other important penguin things!
In the wild, Gentoo penguins breed in colonies of a few hundred pairs and often construct their nests from rocks and anything else they can find in the harsh, Antarctic landscape. Fish and squid make up the bulk of their diet—Gentoos can make as many as 500 dives a day searching for food! Gentoos are a lot of fun to watch—our zookeepers describe them as very curious, active birds who are always up to something!
As of early February, the chicks were moved to an adjoining area, where they will be weaned onto fish from their keepers. We will let visitors know once they return to the exhibit.