Saturday, June 5, 2010

That’s neat, that’s neat check out those happy feet!

After a successful mating season for the gentoo penguins at Edinburgh Zoo, the first chicks, which hatched from 7 May onwards, are now growing fast and taking their first steps.

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.

Over 123 eggs were laid and so far 52 have hatched with 45 surviving. With the ages of chicks varying, the older ones are now becoming more independent and adventurous while others are still to hatch.

Roslin Talbot, Head Keeper of Penguins at Edinburgh Zoo said: “Penguin chicks are adorable and are really just small, unstable versions of their parents with more fluffy juvenile feathers. Over the coming weeks, as the younger chicks catch up with the older ones, they’ll be lots of amusing waddling and exploring the enclosure further away from mum and dad. Visitors coming to see the penguins can’t stop themselves from saying ‘ah aren’t they cute’.”

Last year 42 chicks went on to adulthood. At the moment and until they are three months old, the chicks 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. Once the chicks have grown adult feathers at about three months, the parents stop providing them with 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.

Those tuning into the ever-popular penguin cam at  can see the baby penguin antics for themselves live online.

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