A new baby Gentoo Penguin at the Tennessee Aquarium
Keepers caution that the first few weeks of a baby penguin’s life are the most challenging. “We’ll have staff and volunteers observing to make sure the parents are feeding the chick consistently and keeping it warm and sheltered from other curious penguins,” said Kevin Calhoon, the Aquarium’s assistant curator of forests. “Biscuit and Blue seem to be feeding their baby right now, but birds sometimes quickly lose interest in their offspring.”
While Biscuit is keeping the chick warm, Blue stands over the new mother and baby making sure other penguins keep from getting too close. “This behavior is important to help protect the rather fragile chick,” said Dave Collins, the Aquarium’s curator of forests. “The parents need plenty of time to stay on the baby and not let any cold air get onto it. There is also a risk of injury if a scuffle occurs between the parents and another penguin.”
Visitors will be able to catch glimpses of the baby gentoo whenever the parent rises up off of the chick. Frequently the baby will use the opportunity to beg for food or tap on the parent’s beak to be fed.
This stimulates the parental feeding behavior. “Biscuit has fed the chick several times already this morning,” said Aldrich. “In many cases it may take a day for the parents to start feeding their baby, so this is an encouraging sign.”
Calhoon already modified Biscuit and Blue’s nest to increase the level of safety for new baby. “We used a pair of small tire inner tubes which are filled with sand to raise the sides of their nest,” said Calhoon. “This will help keep the tiny chick from venturing outside the nest and ending up in the water.”
This new bundle of joy could be followed by others this summer.
Gentoos Nipper and Flower are tending to one egg which, if fertile, could hatch in late-July.
This morning Peep laid her second egg. She and mate Poncho appear to be caring for both eggs right now which could hatch in early August. Until then, penguin keepers will have their hands full caring for this new baby gentoo.