Winter is creeping up, leading us through frost to cold to ice and snow. That’s weather that will chill the newest penguin residents of the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore as much as it will you and me.
As African penguins, the newly hatched pair prefers moderate temperatures like those predicted for this week, between about 41 and 68 degrees. So the zoo’s main conservation center building, where they nest comfortably with their parents Mega and Rossi, has controlled temperatures.
“With African penguins, both the male and the female take turns sitting on the eggs,” said Jen Kottyan, avian collection and conservation manager. “Once the eggs hatch, parents take turns caring for their offspring; they each protect, feed, and keep the chick or chicks warm for two to three days, then switch off.”
The downy grey juveniles will soon learn how to swim. Then they will slowly meet the rest of the penguin colony.
The month-old siblings are the first chicks to hatch this breeding season. Penguin chicks spend 38 to 42 days in the egg before hatching. In zoos, keepers monitor development of the eggs by candling them about a week after they are laid to see if they are fertile and developing. The eggs are then reunited with the parents. The chicks’ parents supply their early diet of regurgitated fish.
At about three weeks, keepers begin hand rearing chicks to acclimate them to humans as their source of food.
The Maryland Zoo has been invested in penguins since 1967. Since 2009, African penguins have been endangered in the wild.
At the zoo, you’ll see the largest African penguin colony in North America, with over 60 birds in the new “highly dynamic” Penguin Coast exhibit.
Expect a noisy place, as African penguins have loud, braying calls that earn them the nickname jackass penguin.
You won’t be able to visit these chicks until they’re several months old, but you can follow their growth and development online: www.marylandzoo.org; www.facebook.com/marylandzoo.