55 Music Concourse Dr.
Golden Gate Park
San Francisco CA
Regular Hours:


9:30 am – 5:00 pm


11:00 am – 5:00 pm
Members' Hours:


8:30 – 9:30 am


10:00 – 11:00 am

The Academy will be closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.

Planetarium will be closed Sep. 22, 23, 24

Live Penguin Cams 

May 25, 2011

African penguin Reproduction: Egg Development and Making Decisions

At the California Academy of Sciences, normal African penguin  incubation is 37-38 days. The eggs “Jahzara” laid are now at Day 45 and Day 41 into incubation. We need to make a decision to evaluate whether the chicks are still developing and need assistance or if the eggs stopped developing somewhere in the incubation process.  This is a difficult decision, because if we open the eggs too early, the chick could potentially stop developing. And if we open too late, the chick could potentially not have enough oxygen or yolk resources and not make it out of the shell. Having candled the eggs this morning with no additional change in air cell or internal pip, I opened the Alpha egg. This egg had been fertilized, but the embryo had stopped developing in the first trimester. The Beta egg was then opened with the same outcome. The candling photos that were taken at Day 9 showed clear vessels and a clear embryo. Now, having opened the eggs and evaluated the candling photos from Day19, 34 and 38, the dark area was bacteria reproducing in the egg likely post mortem. As this is a first time couple, we did expect that the chance of success in reproduction would be low.  The Nest cam that has been capturing “Agulhas’s” and “Jahzara’s” incubation has assisted our staff in evaluation of their first time skills as a couple. They have established normal reproductive behaviors including successful copulation, laying two normal sized eggs and taking turns incubating eggs. These will prove valuable in the future as our contribution to the reproduction of this endangered species. This couple will likely lay another clutch of eggs in the next 2-6 months and based on statistics should have a higher rate of success in the future. -Pamela Schaller

Filed under: CAS Penguin Colony — Penguins @ 2:25 pm

May 14, 2011

African penguin Reproduction: Egg Management and More Candling


The management of African penguin eggs includes marking eggs, record keeping and candling (as reviewed in previous blogs). Knowing when eggs are laid assists the staff in planning for expected offspring. Because African penguins lay 2 eggs usually 3-4 days apart it is important to differentiate between the eggs. Sometimes that is done by size (often the first egg is larger), however it may be difficult to tell by size.  Marking the eggs with a pencil is useful in egg management. Above are 2 eggs, one is marked with an Alpha (upper left egg in photo) designating the first egg. The second is marked with a Beta. As eggs develop, the air cell (located at the fat end of the egg) enlarges and eventually tilts. The air cell is seen upon candling. By drawing the edges of the air cell on the outside of the shell, staff can predict that the egg is close to hatching. The chick draws it’s first breath of air into their lungs in this air cell- this is called the internal pip. Within 12 hours they begin to externally pip (break through the egg shell). Records are kept for each time the eggs are candled and are especially important very close to the internal and external pip. This is called the pip to hatch interval. Writing on the eggs, record keeping and candling are important management tools for chick survival. Below are three candling photos, the first photo is of an African penguin egg at 19 days into incubation, second photo is 34 days into incubation and the third is 38 days. The dark area is growing bacteria likely post mortem, compare this to the previous penguin blog photo when the embryo and blood vessels were obvious at 9 days into incubation.-Pamela Schaller

penguin-eggs-candled-Day 19-compressed

African penguin egg: Day 19

penguin-eggs-candled-Day 34-compressed1

African penguin Egg: Day 34


African penguin Egg: Day 38

Filed under: CAS Penguin Colony — Penguins @ 4:19 pm

April 20, 2011

African penguin Reproduction: Fertile Eggs


The process of candling eggs is an important part of our African penguin reproductive program at the Academy. It allows the staff to determine fertility early enough to predict hatching and plan for rearing chicks. Candling eggs was reviewed in the penguin 20 October 2010 blog post. Candling eggs requires a steady hand and experience as the embryo is developing important parts of their body every hour in the first few days. While candling we look for blood vessel development inside of the egg. The embryo develops an embryonic lung system that looks like an intricate network of blood vessels which allows the embryo to exchange gases through microscopic pores in the egg shell. The upper third of the egg above shows the characteristic vessels of development at day 9 of incubation.-Pamela Schaller

Filed under: CAS Penguin Colony — Penguins @ 2:38 pm

April 5, 2011

African penguin Reproduction: Burrow Cam


Our African penguins have successfully hatched out 108 chicks since 1983. As a participating member of the African penguin SSP (Species Survival Plan) http://www.aza.org/species-survival-plan-program/ , we have been able to watch many of these birds grow and move on to other facilities. We are a breeding facility and have recently been observing some of newer couples begin to nest. We will be experimenting with the biologist cam placement in one penguin burrow to observe penguin reproduction. The couple we are monitoring is “Agulhas” and “Jahzara”.  You can join us while we watch this first time couple try to set up a nest and pair bond. Penguin burrows can be constructed out of guano, sand, dirt or whatever is available in the wild. Our burrow is fiberglass and allows for both adult penguins and penguin chicks to nest. It also has an entrance to the exhibit. The camera will move inside of this burrow on occasion and will get coated with salt and leaves that the birds bring into their burrow. We hope that the camera view is minimally obstructed, but this may be possible at any time. -Pamela Schaller

Filed under: CAS Penguin Colony — Penguins @ 2:01 pm

March 19, 2011

African penguin Reproduction: The Love Shack is open


We currently have 15 birds housed in our African penguin exhibit plus two birds that have entered our Love Shack to spend some quality time together. “Pete” (pictured above) and “Adasha” are both 3 years old and are showing behavioral signs of sexual maturity. African penguins form very close pair bonds that last their entire life. They usually start to form these bonds between 3 and 4 years old, with successful reproduction occurring between 4 and 5 years old. “Pete” has been establishing territories by laying down in certain locations on exhibit and fighting other males to maintain those locations. He has also been bowing his head to some female penguins that walk by his territory. “Adasha” has been following male penguins around, also bowing her head in greeting to certain males on exhibit. Because these birds seem ready to start committing themselves to other birds, we have placed them in a room that has it’s own pool, nest and land space to encourage these two birds to interact. We can only wait to see if they may be willing to pursue a lifelong bond.-Pamela Schaller

Filed under: CAS Penguin Colony — Penguins @ 11:38 am
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