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Four Rockhopper Penguins Join the Colony

Rockhopper penguin Tate

Posted January 2022

At the end of October 2021 two male and two female rockhopper penguins joined the existing colony in the Aviary. Both females arrived from the St. Louis Zoo and the males from Newport Aquarium in Kentucky. The new group includes:

  • Tate – 17 years (banded blue right)
  • Rocky – 17 years (banded black right)
  • Christina – 19 years (banded gray left)
  • Britney – 19 years (banded green left)
Rockhopper penguin Rocky
Rockhopper penguin Christina
Rockhopper penguin Britney

The birds were introduced to the habitat with close supervision from the Animal Watch volunteers and animal care staff if they found it necessary to intervene quickly for a dispute that may have been inappropriate. The youngest Gentoo penguin, Flurry (banded white right), took an interest in the new rockhoppers as they were new and exciting additions, but quickly lost interest in them.

Because it’s now nesting season, introducing new birds into the colony has elicited some natural territorial behavior. The males are attempting to establish dominance and nesting sites, while the females are largely uninterested in the males’ antics. Overall, because penguins are social animals that naturally live in large groups, they don’t seem to pay much attention to new birds in their colony.

Some minor squabbling the first few days is common as the new birds find their places in the pecking order, but the colony generally finds a new status quite soon.

Keepers report Christina was shy when she was first introduced and proved a challenge to feeding in the habitat the first week or so, but she’s quickly grown accustomed to her new home and now readily eats from keepers at every feed.

Keepers describe Britney as rather prim and well-behaved most of the time. Often, she’s seen sitting on her heels with her feet folded very properly, but she has a very shrill piercing shriek, rather unusual for a rockhopper!

Males Tate and Rocky are rough and tumble and seem to enjoy picking fights and staking their territory with their signature calls. Almost always, they’re the first to the bucket at feeding time!
The entire colony is fed twice daily a diet of capelin supplemented with vitamin E and the occasional treat of herring, smelt or silversides.

So far, the new birds have been a delight for the keepers to work with and have added a lot of character to the current colony. They say it’s very entertaining to watch the birds dive and splash around in the pool, and it always seems like at least one penguin is in the water putting on a show for visitors!

On your next visit, stop in the Aviary to see a lively Rockhopper and Gentoo Penguin habitat!