On January 28, 2013, the Academy’s first African penguin chick since the new building opened hatched to a Species Survival Plan-recommended pair of penguins in our colony. The parents, Ty and Robben, have been raising their new chick diligently for the past few months. This is the first-ever chick for Ty (the mother), and the first for this couple, who did a good job taking turns sitting on the egg and defending their nest during the 37-day incubation period. We periodically candled the egg to check the chick’s development during this time.
Once the chick externally pipped (meaning it began to peck its way out of the egg), it took almost 24 hours for it to entirely emerge from its shell. The Animal Health Department did a quick exam and weight measurement to ensure its health before returning it to its parents. Then the entire family was moved to an off-exhibit area where the chick could grow up without the interference of other curious couples.
We were delighted that the parents did all of the rearing on their own, and continued to weigh the chick periodically to track its progression. At just under a month old, it started venturing out of the nest box. Shortly thereafter, it received a full physical including blood work to determine gender, and…it’s a BOY!!
When they first hatch, penguin chicks are covered in downy feathers, have soft feet, and their wings are flexible. In the last two months, our little guy has lost his down and replaced it with juvenile feathers that are gray and white in color. He now has a unique spot pattern on his belly that will remain the same for the rest of his life. Once his wings had hardened and his feet were rough, he was ready to start swimming. On day 57, we started introducing him to the water in a kiddie pool for a few minutes at a time, gradually increasing the duration.
Once he was comfortable swimming, we introduced him to his new exhibit and the rest of the colony slowly, over a period of days. In just 72 days, he has grown from 70 grams to 3 kg, close to full adult size. He is doing very well and we are excited to see how his personality develops as he matures.
Come by to welcome him to his new home, and be sure to enter the Name the Penguin Chick Contest before April 30. Academy staff will select the top three names based on originality and connection to the Academy’s mission to explore, explain and sustain life, including the African Penguin SSP program. The final three names will be put out to public vote, and the winning name will be announced during a naming ceremony in May.