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September 11, 2011

Fall Fashion Week

The fashion runways of New York, Milan, Paris and London are all featuring feathers as one of the season’s top trends. Feathers are, of course, always “in” for penguins and are indeed crucial for them staying warm enough underwater while they search for food. Penguin feathers are highly adapted to provide this insulation but, unfortunately, wear down over time and need to be replaced. Penguins get this process done all at once with what’s called a catastrophic molt.

It’s a slow, arduous process that each penguin must go through about once per year and takes weeks to complete. New feathers are manufactured beneath the skin and essentially push the old feathers out as they grow in. Although there tends to be a pattern in which the molt proceeds penguins often sport some pretty unique feather-do’s, many of which are quite amusing.

Adasha (our beige-banded female) is shown below finishing up her molt last week, eschewing the common disheveled look in favor of a very trendy feather shawl:

adashamolt-008

adashamolt-0091

Almost all of our birds have now gone through their molt for the year. Dyer (blue/white banded male) and Grendel (yellow male) are just starting to swell up and have had their bands removed. Out with the old and in with the new!


Filed under: Molting — Penguins @ 12:54 pm

12 Comments

  1. So what was going on in Penguin land this evening? I chanced to take a look at around 7 pm and saw Pam with a headset on looking like she was lecturing or answering questions while frolicking with the tuxedo’d denizens!!! And why did she keep picking up one pengion from the peninsula and carrying him or her over to the other side behind the log? Oh how I would love to be able to hear everything that goes on in there. Will there ever be a 24 hour audio feed for those of us living distantly from CAS? Or at least an audio feed when the biologists are communicating? I’ve been reading a lot of the blogs and it seems like there are a lot of us that are yearning for sound to go with the video (although we are ABSOLUTELY GRATEFUL for what you are providing us with currently)

    Comment by Karen — September 15, 2011 @ 7:28 pm

  2. On the cam last night, I thought I saw a peng biologist distributing snacks to the pengs from a plastic bag. Do the pengs receive other vitamin-enriched snacks in addition to their fish? I’ve observed many feedings in the African peng habitat at our local zoo, but I have never seen those pengs eat anything but vitamin fish. Do they benefit more from nutritional supplements during molting season?

    Comment by Jack Balfour — September 16, 2011 @ 2:03 pm

  3. Thank you for posting pictures for the colony moulting!!! I like seeing them go through the feather-do, a.k.a. feather mohawk stage!! They all do it differently and rather cool in their own ways!! :) Always cool to see… I can’t wait until i go and see them all in person!!! I’ve been watching at home via the iPhone app!

    Comment by lex — September 18, 2011 @ 10:17 am

  4. Hi,
    It seems like there are drops of water in a few places on the inside of the wide view penguin cam. They make the image fuzzy. I wonder if they could be wiped off. Would also love a camera that shows the stage left side of the beach and another from inside a nest box. Thanks so much for providing the webcams. Judy

    Comment by Judy Reynolds — September 18, 2011 @ 10:54 am

  5. Hi Karen, Pam was indeed lecturing in the exhibit last Thursday evening. Every Thursday the Academy is open from 6-10 pm for what we call Nightlife. It consists of “music, creatures and cocktails” and every week has a different theme. http://www.calacademy.org/events/nightlife/ Last week the event was dedicated to Extinction and Survival and Pam was lecturing specifically about penguin conservation. African penguins are currently endangered and new research has actually just come out showing that there have previously been four other species of penguins in Africa, all of which are now extinct (more to come about this in a future blog post!). Also, penguins in general are regarded as very good “sentinel species” for the marine environment. This means that their relative well-being in the oceans is a good indicator of the overall health of the ecosystem.

    I’m not sure exactly which bird Pam was moving but I’d guess she was discouraging one of our younger males from intruding on the “peninsula”, the area of the exhibit off to stage left (away from Homey and Pierre’s territory). One of our recommended pairs, Dunker and Kianga (yellow and black-banded couple) have just managed to take over the nest-box there and are practicing their parenting skills on two dummy eggs. If another bird was threatening them she was probably helping out by removing the intruding offender.

    24 hour audio in the exhibit is definitely something that has been discussed and may very well happen in the future. The demand for it is duly noted :)

    Comment by Penguins — September 21, 2011 @ 2:02 pm

  6. Thanks so much for the answer! 24 hour audio would be awesome!! As would audio of the Thursday night lectures. And if the evening lectures are “pay per view” only per se, maybe sometime in the future remote viewers could purchase viewing and listening rights to special lectures also! It might be a good fundraising technique. I know I try to contribute monthly (via my iphone and pocket penguins) and would gladly fork over more dough to the penguins to hear new and/or more indepth information as well as wise words from Pam and all the rest of you. I love this site more than you can possibly imagine.
    And more on the subject of audio, it seems like every time I was able to log in for a feeding this week, the audio was not functioning. Was there something going on? Was this week “new biologist” week? It’s hard to recognize people without audio because the pixel definition is so low. Thanks again for any and all information and everything all of you do for those of us craving PenguinLand info and entertainment!!!

    Comment by Karen — September 23, 2011 @ 3:52 pm

  7. How can I watch the penguins full screen?

    Comment by E. George Strasser — September 25, 2011 @ 12:00 pm

  8. Can you please put toys in the penguin exhibit? They are doing nothing all day but laying and sitting there. Please put enrichment in their exhibit.

    Comment by Jocelyn — September 26, 2011 @ 4:04 pm

  9. Hi Karen, we have been training Nicole in the exhibit without audio throughout the past couple of weeks so that’s very likely what you were experiencing. I’ll pass along your suggestion about any special event lectures in the exhibit being accessible via the blog/Pocket Penguins. Cheers!

    Comment by Penguins — September 27, 2011 @ 2:36 pm

  10. Hi Jack, sorry for the delay! The biologist was probably distributing nesting material for the birds to gather and use in their homes. Our birds do not receive anything else to eat other than fish. This reflects the fact that this species of penguin, particularly once they’re adults, feed pretty much exclusively on fish. Other penguin species do eat other goodies like squid and krill, for example, but not African penguins. We have tried offering things like krill for enrichment and…no interest! The vitamin schedule we have our colony on is adequate for these guys even as they gear up to molt and overdosing on some of the supplements is a risk we want to avoid taking. They do, however, considerably increase the volume of food they consume prior to molting . Hope this addressed your question and thanks for writing!

    Comment by Penguins — September 27, 2011 @ 4:16 pm

  11. Hi again Jocelyn, thanks for your concern. African penguins are considered a sedentary species on land and do not, even in the wild, venture much from their nesting sites. If you look at footage of these birds in the wild you will see behavior very similar to what you have described observing in our colony: a bunch of birds laying and sitting around. You do not see birds playing with objects in the wild but rather passing the time preening their feathers, interacting with their mates, and defending their territories (all behaviors observable here in our Academy colony).

    However, we do provide novel and different stimuli for them including the regular distribution of different materials for them to collect and use in their nests (tying in with a natural behavior of nest-building). Some other examples of things that we do include periodically blowing bubbles for them and giving them Wiffle balls, krill frozen in blocks of ice, or apples and carrots among other things. For these items to be considered enrichment it’s important that they’re introduced to the birds for a limited time period lest they become part of their “background” environment; you may not always catch their presence on the cams. Something new that we’ve just started doing is playing different types of music for them while we’re cleaning!

    But really penguins are such social animals that it is really their interactions with each other and with the people who care for them that provides the most meaningful enrichment. The fact that we have a healthy, reproductive colony is the best indicator that their needs are being met and that they feel comfortable with the home we’ve provided for them.

    Comment by Penguins — September 27, 2011 @ 5:03 pm

  12. Hello, we don’t have a full screen option, but Ustream does. We are showing our webcams on there also: http://www.ustream.tv/calacademy-penguins. Hope this helps and thanks for watching!

    Comment by Penguins — September 28, 2011 @ 8:25 am

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