Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Penguin Chicks Learn to Fish at San Francisco Zoo

Michele Berger Published: Jul 23, 2013

The Class of 2013 is about to graduate.

They’ve learned how to eat fish. They’ve grown accustomed to the water. Soon it will be time for that walk all young students await: The March of the Penguins.

This Saturday, the five Magellanic penguins born in May at the San Francisco Zoo — four females, one male — will make their first public appearance as they enter Penguin Island and join the rest of the zoo’s colony. First, as reports, they had to make the grade at Fish School.

“Fish School here at the San Francisco Zoo is part of the normal penguin-breeding process,” penguin keeper Andrew Brown says in a video about the birds. “Up here at the zoo’s avian conservation center, we give them a nice, safe place to be. Once they’re ready for access to water, we give them access to water. This is where they learn that [fish] are a source of food.”

Magellanic penguins are native to Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Uruguay, and the Falkland Islands. Though an estimated 1.3 million pairs of the birds exist worldwide, they’re considered “Near Threatened” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature because of rapid population declines the past three decades. “The main threat appears to be oil pollution, which was thought to kill more than 20,000 adults and 22,000 juveniles every year on the Argentinian coast,” according to BirdLife International.

Luckily, the San Francisco Zoo’s program is successful: 205 of these chicks have fledged since 1985, notes the zoo’s species page, the “largest and most successful breeding colony of Magellanic penguins in captivity.”

The graduating five- to seven-week-olds are getting bigger “thanks to a diet of delicious herring,” the zoo told The Huffington Post. “They’re also becoming more sleek, since they lose their fuzzy down to become waterproof at this age.”

And they’re getting ready for their big move, reports. “That’s when these little guys will go join Chuck Norris, Captain EO, Frankie and Vito (all real names of penguins) in their permanent homes on Penguin Island.”


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