55 Music Concourse Dr.
Golden Gate Park
San Francisco CA
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November 19, 2009

Penguin Team Member: Monty


Hi Penguin enthusiasts!  I am Pam Montbach, the newest member of the penguin team at the academy. In order not to be confused with the other, more experienced, penguin biologist Pam, everyone calls me Monty. I’ve been working with these gregarious birds since May and you’ll usually see me in the exhibit diving and feeding on Thursday afternoons. My main job at the Steinhart is to care for and culture our jellyfish. I am also on the shark team and work closely with the California coast animals we have at the Academy. Getting a chance to work with the penguins has been an exciting and rewarding experience for me. Each time I step into the exhibit to feed or clean I get a peek into another world. Watching the birds moving on land, jumping on the rocks, fighting for territory, and belly-flopping into the water can be quite humorous.  But all of that awkwardness disappears as soon as they enter the water. They are sleek and agile. I get to see this up close when I am diving to clean the tank. I love to interact with them underwater and watch them in their element.  Each of our birds has a distinct personality and watching the relationships form between individual penguins and getting to bond with the birds myself is truly a treat.- Pam Montbach

Filed under: CAS Penguin Colony — Penguins @ 4:48 pm


  1. Hi Dave, Some penguin eye references include Howland, H.C.and Sivak J.G. (1984). Penguin Vision in Air and Water, Vision Research, 24, 1905-9. Sivak, J.G. (1976). The role of a flat cornea in the amphibious behaviour of the blackfoot penguin (Spheniscus demersus). Canadian Journal of Zoology, 54, 1341-5. Sivak, J.G. et al (1987) Vision of the humboldt penguin (Spheniscus humboldti) in air and water. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Series B, 229, 467-72. Part 2 of your question regarding breeding; we participate in the African Penguin Species Survival Plan with 45 other institutions. We have a masterplan meeting every 2 years to evaluate: percent inbreeding coefficient and lowest mean kinship. We recommend pairs to breed for the most varied gene pool possible. If a couple is highly represented in the gene pool then they are given plastic eggs (about the same size and weight of their real eggs). We continue to encourage them to nest and sometimes incorporate them as surrogate parents if a more valuable genetic pair needs assistance rearing offspring.-Pamela Schaller

    Comment by pschaller — November 24, 2009 @ 2:17 pm

  2. Hi Garrett, African penguins average 2.1-3.9 mph over a complete foraging trip (hunting, swimming, diving, etc.). They can reach speeds of 6.3-9.1 mph over shorter distances.-Pamela Schaller

    Comment by pschaller — November 24, 2009 @ 2:24 pm

  3. Hi Susan, penguin feathers are very stiff, short and have a seperate shaft of downy filaments which forms an additional insulative layer. They are rigid to trap a thick layer of air next to the skin. In water they compress to form a thin water-tight barrier. Oily waterproofing is important in the insulation and is performed by the penguins daily. A sub-dermal layer of fat is seen in Antarctic species that can be an inch thick, but is rarely that thick in an African penguin. African penguins are very bouyant, due to air in the lungs, air sacs and feathers. This allows them to rest while in the water keeping their head above water without swimming.-Pamela Schaller

    Comment by pschaller — November 24, 2009 @ 2:38 pm

  4. Hi! Many thanks for your answers!
    Greetz from Austria, Dave

    Comment by Dave — November 24, 2009 @ 3:17 pm

  5. LOL, I found a funny paper on avian fluid dynamics…

    Comment by Dave — December 1, 2009 @ 5:20 am

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