Friday, April 30, 2010

Hey chick, time to come out!

Photo - © RZSS

After a successful mating season for the gentoo penguins at Edinburgh Zoo, staff and visitors are hoping to see the first chicks coming out of their shells this weekend. With 108 eggs laid so far, the first chick is due today (Saturday 1 May).

During the mating season large doughnut-shaped nesting rings and pebbles were placed in the enclosures by keepers. Within hours, the amusing courtship displays, whereby males presented females with a love token of a pebble, began.

Roslin Talbot, Head Keeper at Edinburgh Zoo said:

Edinburgh Zoo is one of the most successful captive breeding sites for gentoo penguins in Europe. Once the eggs are laid, we briefly remove them from the nest and write a 1 or 2 on it to know which was the first egg and which was the second. We keep careful records of every egg laid and then the chicks once they hatch.

Last year 42 chicks went on to adulthood. We’re hoping that this weekend we might see some new additions to the group. Although we can never guarantee that chicks hatch on the date we expect them, it certainly would be surprising if this didn’t happen sometime over the weekend.”

Those tuning into the ever-popular penguin cam at may be the first to glimpse this year’s emerging chicks. Once the chicks hatch, they remain in the nest for a couple of months and are fed by both parents. The adult will hold onto partly digested food to feed its chick. When hungry, the young simply pecks on its parent’s beak. This causes the parent to ‘cough up’ the food they have been storing. In the wild, and while their parents hunt for food, month old chicks form nursery groups known as creches. Once the chicks have grown adult feathers at about three months, the parents stop providing them food and they start to fend for themselves.

As an adult, the gentoo penguin is easily recognised by the wide white-stripe extending like a bonnet across the top of its head and bright orange beak. Gentoo penguins are the fastest underwater swimming bird.

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