Friday, July 12, 2013

S.F. Zoo's Penguin Chicks Attend Fish School, Graduate With Honors In Cuteness

 One of the penguins is fascinated by a set of keys.(Photo: Rose Garrett/SFist)

The San Francisco Zoo's colony of Magellanic Penguins welcomed five new chicks back in May. Later this month, the young ones will make their first public appearance when they waddle their way around penguin island for March of the Penguins. To get ready for their big debut, the chicks are currently separated from the colony attending "Fish School" — a kind of charm school for young aquatic birds. Yesterday afternoon, SFist dropped in to Fish School because we're suckers for tiny animals.

As chief penguin keeper Anthony Brown explained to us, Fish School is where these adolescent penguins go to learn that there are ways to eat that don't involve having someone barf on your face. In other words: they get to hang out with other penguins their age during that awkward period when their newborn downy fluff starts falling off, their adult feathers start growing in and their parents start letting them go to the mall by themselves. The penguins we met were between five and seven weeks old and already about the size of a small duck.

Brown, who is lovingly referred to as a "penguin whisperer" around the Zoo, is a fantastic source of information about all things penguin-related. But the best thing we learned yesterday was that if you scratch a penguin behind their ear, they will lovingly try to scratch you right back.

March of the Penguins happens on July 27th this year. 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.


 The youngest are still covered in downy baby feathers that kept them warm through childhood.(Photo: Andrew Dalton/SFist)

At this point, about 5 - 8 weeks old, the chicks eat two meals a day. Each gobbles down about three or four herring each and then promptly runs off to the corner of the pen to sleep.(Photo: Rose Garrett/SFist)

 They're still a little shaky waddling around. (They trip over themselves a lot and it is adorable.)(Photo: Rose Garrett/SFist)

 (Photo: Rose Garrett/SFist)

 Penguin keeper Anthony Brown whispers sweet nothings to the oldest chick in the group.(Photo: Rose Garrett/SFist)

 Keeper Anthony Brown seen here penguin whispering.(Photo: Andrew Dalton/SFist)

 (Photo: Andrew Dalton/SFist)

(Photo: Andrew Dalton/SFist)

 (Photo: Andrew Dalton/SFist)

 Sweet mullet.(Photo: Andrew Dalton/SFist)

After feeding, all five of them huddle in the corner and take a nap.(Photo: Andrew Dalton/SFist)

Except for one squawky one.(Photo: Andrew Dalton/SFist)

 They currently share a condo.(Photo: Andrew Dalton/SFist)

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