Tuesday, September 29, 2015

#Penguins of the Day

Let's Be Friends 

Let's Be Friends by Baron Reznik

#Penguin watchers switch to daytime count

Penguins on Marine Parade.
Penguins on Marine Parade. John Bisset

Penguin counters in Timaru will swap their nighttime shifts for daytime ones this spring.
Penguin Support Group group co-ordinator Peter Bennett said a new counting method would be used this year. "This year we will be using a different counting method using their daytime location rather than what comes in after dark," Bennett said.

The method focused on penguin breeding numbers rather than the number of birds counted after dark, he said. "The method is used along Banks Peninsula. We are going to be looking at nest locations along Marine Parade."

Bennett said at the last unofficial count, on September 27, there were five penguins spotted in the bay.
"It is time for penguins to start their family and they are returning to the bay slowly. Based on the five we are hoping for two nests."

In spring in 2014, the group spotted nine or 10 breeding pairs which only produced five chicks.
Bennett said the new method would be more convenient for the group members. "There will be counting activities for our members during day time and it will be done fortnightly. It will be better than going out in the evening and staying out till 11 or 12pm."

The method will potentially be used in a month's time, he said, depending on the Department of Conservation. "They are experienced and will be helping us use the method."

The group now has 20 members and is responsible for looking after penguins in the Caroline Bay area.


Sunday, September 27, 2015

Experts on television nature shows admit they often try to help stricken animals they are filming

... and once even saved a baby penguin from a melted ice hole

  • Experts on nature shows say they agonise over whether to help animals
  • Some admit helping stricken creatures if it does not interfere with nature 
  • Cameraman Doug Allan said he once saved a penguin from melted ice hole

BBC filmmakers have admitted coming to the rescue of stricken animals while filming some of the most heartbreaking scenes in nature documentaries.
Experts working on Springwatch and Autumnwatch say they constantly agonise over whether to save animals from perilous situations - and often decide to do so if it does not interfere with nature's intended path.
Doug Allan, David Attenborough's favourite cameraman, said he once saved a baby penguin by picking it out of a melted ice hole and putting it back on its feet.

BBC filmmakers such as Doug Allan, who filmed these emperor penguins for the Blue Planet, have admitted helping animals while filming nature shows
BBC filmmakers such as Doug Allan, who filmed these emperor penguins for the Blue Planet, have admitted helping animals while filming nature shows
And Martin Hughes-Games, who presents Springwatch, said his team had once caused 'absolute uproar' after intervening while a bird's nest was being flooded.
Martin Hughes-Games, who presents Springwatch, said his team had once caused 'absolute uproar' after intervening with a bird's nest  being flooded

Speaking at the Radio Times Festival at Hampton Court, he said: 'Half the people said, "why didn't you intervene", and others then said, "you shouldn't have intervened."
'We're respectful of nature. But it's incredibly hard not to intervene.

'We probably spend more time debating that than anything else on the Watches.'
Allan, who is behind some of the most famed polar scenes, admitted tending to some animals, provided it did not upset the natural balance.
'For me, at least, my job is to look and not interfere,' The Telegraph reported him as saying.

'If I feel my presence is tilting the balance of the predator or the prey, then I'm doing something wrong.' 
Steve Leonard, a television vet, also told the audience that letting nature takes its course was one of the 'hardest things to face'.
'We have to recognise that these injured animals are somebody else's lunch, I'm afraid,' he said.

Meanwhile Alistair Fothergrill, the producer of nature series including Planet Earth, said his next show The Hunt, due to air on the BBC in November, would shine the spotlight on predators to allow viewers to sympathise with both the hunter and hunted.


The African penguin

This column is part of a series where Verge staffers post highly subjective reviews of animals. Up until now, we've written about animals without telling you whether they suck or rule. We are now rectifying this oversight.

Penguins are a surprisingly versatile bunch. They play hockey in Pittsburgh, command the Norwegian army, and can go shopping for their own fish. They can be seen alongside Oscar-winning actors as well as star in several successful franchises (and should they ever get nominated, they're born dressed for any awards show). They're great with family but also know how to get freaky. And they're the only known sentient beings capable of causing Benedict Cumberbatch to fumble.

But I don't want to talk about all penguins because the field is far too diverse. Instead I want to focus on Spheniscus demersus — the African penguin. To do this review properly, I knew I had to see these creatures firsthand, so earlier this month, I visited the Boulders Beach penguin colony in South Africa.

First, a little bit about the African penguin in particular. Found in both South Africa and Namibia, the African penguin sports white streaks from head to toe and distinct patterns of spots on its belly, all of which says, "I know fashion, but I also know how to be an individual." I'd like to see more color, but a black-and-white combination is time-tested class and works in most occasions.

(Daniel Victor)
See that bit of pink above their eyes? That's built-in air conditioning (or "thermoregulation," if you want to be more technical — and yes, we humans have a less pronounced version of it, as well). When the penguin heats up, those glands fill with more blood to help lose heat. It also has the added benefit of turning a bright pinkish red, which is great for summer fashion.

It doesn't start out that cute, though. In fact, I'd go as far as to say these baby penguins are pretty ugly, especially compared to some other baby penguin species. I mean really, what are they thinking with that coat?

Thankfully, they grow out of those awkward beginnings. There's one thing they don't grow out of, however, and before we go on, I want you to imagine what an African penguin sounds like. Sounds like a wispy Elijah Wood in your head, right? Now, turn up your speakers and watch this:

I'm sorry.

I'm so, so sorry.

African penguins are also known as jackass penguins because they create a sound not unlike a donkey braying. This isn't proof of some divine being trying to balance out all the creatures' good quality with one major fault, but it is an unfortunate con here.

Here, have a Benedict Cumberbatch and cleanse that aural palate (starting at 3:18):

Another problem? African penguins are rather limited in supply — endangered, you could say — with an estimated 55,000 left in 2010. (That number was closer to 200,000 at the turn of this century and 3 to 4 million a century before that.) You could argue, as some have, that this is due to predator seals, overfishing, climate change, or some other horrible thing outside of their control. Me? I blame it on a lack of opposable thumbs. This is a clear evolutionary oversight, so I have to knock off points.

Okay, so African penguins are not as iconic as emperor penguins, nor are they as flamboyant as the southern rockhopper penguin (but what is, am I right?). Still, their style is understated, their sense of community is laudable, and dammit, I want one.

The African Penguin

Verge Score


Good Stuff
  • Classier tux than most penguins
  • Camera ready
  • Eager to please

Bad Stuff

  • Limited quantities
  • Awkward childhood
  • My god, that sound



#Penguin of the Day


Enlightened by Daniel Armbruster

This Week's Pencognito!

BE sure and visit Jen and all the Pengies by clicking this link!

Friday, September 25, 2015

Why Do So Many Penguins Sound Just Like Donkeys? At Last We Know

Why Do So Many Penguins Sound Just Like Donkeys? At Last We Know 
Esther Inglis-Arkell

African penguins have another name: “beach donkeys.” Early European explorers were said to have named them that after they followed the sound of donkey calls, only to find a coast full of birds. Now we know what these donkey calls mean.

African penguins aren’t the only penguins that sound like donkeys. Several species from South America do as well. African penguins, otherwise known as jackass penguins, are the most studied, and researchers have figured out what the donkey call means.

The penguins make a range of sounds from begging peeps to moaning contact calls—but they save the full donkey brays for when they want to attract a mate. These calls are what’s known as “ecstatic display songs,” and when a “donkey call” finally nets the penguin a mate, they sing together.
And if they like that, they should try listening to actual donkeys.

Image: Joachim Huber


Knights in Shining Fur: The Fight to Save Australia's Littlest Penguins

 Most dogs harass nesting birds. But maremma dogs helped revive a penguin colony off of Australia's coast.

A decade ago, Amanda Peucker lived through a penguin scientist's worst nightmare. As a PhD student at Australia's Deakin University, Peucker hopped from colony to colony, collecting blood samples of Little Penguins for genetic research as the birds bred on Australia’s southern coast. Then, in the midst of her project, an entire penguin colony vanished. Foxes, an introduced species in Australia, had invaded the colony on Middle Island, killed many of the birds, and scared the rest off.
"It was 50 penguins here, 60 there and it just kept going and going," Peucker says. “Within a year or two, it went from 600 down to four individuals and no breeding. We just thought, that's it; there's nothing we can do."

It turned out that wasn’t exactly true. It just took an outsider to suggest a crazy idea to revive the colony. When local chicken farmer Swampy Marsh heard about the Middle Island penguins, he thought of when his own birds were under attack. To protect them from local predators, Marsh adopted a maremma dog, an Italian breed with a strong guarding instinct, to protect them. If maremmas could protect his chickens, could they also protect the penguins?

That suggestion flew in the face of what most scientists understand about bird-dog interactions—which, admittedly, isn’t very much. Dogs—both wild dingoes and off-leash pets—are known to be among coastal nesting birds’ top predators, in Australia and beyond. Foxes, dogs, and feral cats threaten Little Penguins throughout their range. What little research exists on the effects dogs have on birds has been for beach-nesting birds like plovers and terns, says conservation biologist Mike Weston of Deakin University. The effects dogs have on those species are pretty clear: Dogs eat eggs and chicks, and they accidentally run over and destroy nests when sprinting down beaches, he says.

But that’s not all. Dogs’ very presence keeps shorebird parents from taking care of their eggs and young. When a dog is on the beach, even if it is far off, bird parents often abandon their nests to save themselves—and hopefully avoid giving the dogs an obvious clue as to where their eggs lay hidden, says Weston. Worse, parent birds fly farther from the nest and stay away longer in dogs’ presence than in that of other threats including people, raptors, or crows.

So when Marsh suggested putting a large dog on Middle Island, "we thought, 'my god, that is a crazy idea,'" recalls Peucker. "But we had no other option."

And so the next year, in 2006, Marsh’s maremma, named Oddball, made her debut as a penguin protector. For the month of November, she lived on Middle Island (under human supervision) as a test run for the idea. While Peucker didn't think that Oddball would hurt the penguins, she was worried about how the penguins would react to Oddball—would fear drive them from the island and their chicks?

In the end, just as Oddball ignored the penguins, the penguins were unfazed by Oddball. She deterred the foxes enough that birds returned to breed—that year, 70 adult penguins lived on the colony and 12 chicks survived to fledging. The population has slowly grown ever since and is now 130 birds strong.

"When the dog was on the island, we had no fox prints at all," says Peucker, but when Oddball left, the fox prints returned. "So it seemed to work very well!"

After the successful test, two other maremma puppies were trained to protect Middle Island's penguins. The current pair—sisters named Eudy and Tula for the Little Penguin genus name Eudyptula—spend 5 months per year on the island, just long enough to deter foxes during breeding and molting seasons (they do get weekends off). Oddball has since gone back to Marsh’s farm, but the story of Oddball’s pioneering side-job has been made into a movie, Oddball, which opened in Australian theaters last week. (Negotiations are currently in progress for a U.S. release; our fingers are crossed.)

Scientists still aren’t sure why the Little Penguins didn't react poorly to the maremmas, but they’re taking advantage of the relationship in other places: About 75 miles away in Portland, Victoria, maremmas revived an Australasian Gannet colony after foxes and feral cats decimated it in 2007. And Zoos Victoria is currently training maremmas to protect endangered Eastern Barred Bandicoots after they are reintroduced into the wild. (The entire species currently lives in captivity).

If these projects succeed, using guard dogs to protect vulnerable animal colonies could perhaps expand beyond its oddball beginnings into a viable conservation tactic.


#Penguins of the Day


Sunday, September 20, 2015

Oamaru Blue #Penguin expansion will make colony 'more of an experience

Oamaru Penguin Colony tour guide and research assistant Aimee Horrell is excited an expansion of the business will go ahead.
Nicola Wolfe
Oamaru Penguin Colony tour guide and research assistant Aimee Horrell is excited an expansion of the business will go ahead. Approval for a $400,000 expansion of the Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony has excited staff at the popular tourist attraction.
The Waitaki District Council approved a $250,000 internal loan for the expansion at a meeting on September 16. An additional $150,000 will be funded by Tourism Waitaki. Tourism Waitaki general manager Jason Gaskill said the organisation was happy to work with the Waitaki District Council.
"We are really excited funding has been approved," he said. "The Penguin Colony is one of the most recognisable tourist attractions in Oamaru - between 70,000 and 75,000 people visit the colony each year. The funding and subsequent expansion will make sure the facility is able to accommodate the people that are coming to visit."

Funds would be used to expand the building, upgrade the inside and give it a refresh as well, as install a new toilet block, he said. "The building was originally opened in 1992 and had some work done over a few years. Some major work was done to the property in 2010 and 2011. We had a new habitat put in and a new, smaller grandstand was built," Gaskill said. "We always thought we would next turn our attention to the interior." He said they intended to use the funding to expand the visitor centre and improve the way in which people could interact with the penguins to make it "more of an experience."

One idea is to make the centre more research-focused, as well as creating a space for children.
Gaskill said the carpark, which the colony shares with surrounding businesses, would not be upgraded or expanded as yet, though it is still being discussed. "Conversations around the carpark are ongoing. Our current focus is on the building."

Tourism Waitaki and the Waitaki District Council were currently working on final plans and there no time frame has been set as yet for the expansion and upgrade to commence, he said. The Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony is open daily all year round from 10am and closes several hours after sunset.


#Penguin of the Day

Blue Penguin - Kororā - Eudyptula minor 

Blue Penguin - Kororā - Eudyptula minor by Lisa Ridings

This Week's Pencognito!

Saturday, September 19, 2015

#Penguins of the Day

Chinstrap Penguins 

Chinstrap Penguins by Alfred Myers

Support for world’s smallest penguin

Hon Nicky Wagner
Associate Minister of Conservation
18 September 2015 Media Statement

Support for world’s smallest penguin

The Blue Penguin – the world’s smallest – is one of several West Coast seabirds that will receive support as part of the Community Conservation Partnership Fund’s support for West Coast conservation projects, says Associate Conservation Minister Nicky Wagner.
“The $98,000 investment will help the West Coast Penguin Trust conduct research and carry out practical projects to protect blue penguins and other West Coast seabirds,” Ms Wagner says.
“As well as the Blue Penguin, the investment will help to conserve the Fiordland crested penguins and other threatened seabirds and habitat on the West Coast.
“Projects include roadside fences to protect penguins from traffic, GPS logging of penguin feeding expeditions, education programmes, and studying seabirds and predator species in new locations for potential pest eradication and habitat restoration.”
Blue penguins are the world’s smallest breed of penguin, growing to about 30 cm tall and weighing about one kilogram.
“Whio conservation in the Buller District will receive a $104,000 investment in the Mokihinui Biodiversity Enhancement Project.
“The project will control stoat and other pest populations to help support recovery of whio population and establish the South Island’s 11th Whio Recovery Site.
“The Kawatiri River Trail Boardwalks, north of Westport, will also be completed. The $80,000 CCPF investment will open this valuable conservation area to more people while improving flora and fauna by undertaking planting projects.
“The Paparoa Wildlife Trust will also receive $37,000 to help maintain 650 predator control traps across the 3617 ha ‘Roaring Meg’ ecological area.
“The Okarito Community Nursery will receive $33,000, helping the Nursery to continue to provide native seedlings for restoration sites and riparian management on local farms.
“Together, these projects will be a welcome boost for conservation on the West Coast,” Ms Wagner says.

More information:
West Coast Community Conservation Partnership Forum projects:
• West Coast Penguin Trust: $98,000
• Mokihinui Biodiversity Enhancement Project: $104,000
• Buller Cycling Club: $80,000
• Roaring Meg Pest Control: $37,000
• Okarito Community Nursery: $33,000•


School’s out for this year’s penguin nursery graduates at Folly Farm

Most of the country’s children may be back at school for the new academic year, but it’s graduation day for another set of young students.

Five penguin chicks at Folly Farm have graduated from penguin nursery, where they have learned how to live without their parents after being fledged from their nests in July.

When penguin chicks reach around eight to 12 weeks of age, their parents will not allow them back into their nest and leave them to fend for themselves.

The five Humboldt chicks -Cogsworth, Bagheera, Abu, Scuttle and Thumper - were taken to a special penguin nursery enclosure, where they were taught key penguin survival skills such as how to eat whole fish instead of the regurgitated food fed to them by their parents.

After being in the nursery for eight weeks, the chicks - who are now just over four months old - have graduated and moved back into the main penguin enclosure.

Caroline Davies, a penguin keeper at Folly Farm, said she was very proud to see how much the chicks have progressed:

“It was all very emotional, as it was a big step in their lives and it was lovely to see them being confident with all the other penguins. I felt like a proud parent.

“They all have such distinct personalities, so it’s easy to get attached. Abu is the youngest, and got told off a lot by the other chicks for pulling their tails all the time - he was definitely the naughty one.
“Cogsworth, the eldest, turned into a bit of a diva. We put mirrors in the enclosure as part of the penguins’ enrichment, and she would stare at her own reflection for hours. She was also very picky about who she’d let into her nest!”

On their graduation day, the penguins were weighed and fed a big breakfast, before being walked down to the big pool in the main enclosure and reintroduced to the other 30 penguins in the colony.
Catrin Thomas, who has been a penguin keeper at Folly Farm since their arrival in 2013, said: “It feels like the end of an era, saying goodbye to another group of chicks. This our second group, and both Caroline and I felt more laid back this year after being anxious first time mums last time.
“Helping the chicks get used to feeding on whole fish is hard work, especially for the first few weeks, and we also teach them how to feed under water as they would in the wild.”

She added: “I would say that Thumper has the biggest appetite, she once ate 16 fish in one sitting. The average would usually be eight to 10 fish. She also really likes chasing bubbles.

“Penguins are very sensory animals; they love lights and sounds in particular. We hung up some cd’s for them to chase the reflections, they love looking at the lights.”

The final part of the young penguins’ learning process will be to learn how to socialise and feed as part of a larger group.

As part of a breeding programme, they will then move on to another zoo, where they will use what they learned at Folly Farm to integrate with a new group before finding a partner to breed with.
For more information on Folly Farm visit www.folly-farm.co.uk


Friday, September 18, 2015

#Penguin of the Day

Penguin silhouette 

Penguin silhouette by John Dalkin

I'm bringing sexy beak:

Penguins are attracted to colours on their partner's bills that are invisible to our eyes

  • French scientists studied a colony of amorous penguins near Antarctica
  • Found King penguins are attracted to the colours in each other's beaks 
  • 'Beak spots' look orange to humans but the penguins also see UV light
  • Experts found birds with similar coloured beaks form committed pairs
The eyes may be the window to the soul, but for penguins colourful beaks are the most alluring feature on a partner. Scientists have discovered king penguins are attracted to the colours in each other's bills, which include hues that are invisible to humans. And the saying 'opposites attract' seemingly doesn't apply to the birds because committed pairs have been found to have similar beak colours to each other.

Beauty is in the eye of the beak-holder: Scientists have discovered that King penguins are attracted to the colours in each other’s beaks, including hues invisible to humans. A stock image of a pair of penguins is shown
Beauty is in the eye of the beak-holder: Scientists have discovered that King penguins are attracted to the colours in each other's beaks, including hues invisible to humans. A stock image of a pair of penguins is shown

King penguins (Aptenodytes patagonicus) are the second largest penguin species, after the emperor. They stand 26 to 39 inches (70cm to one metre) tall and weight 24 to 35lbs (11 to 16kg). They are monogamous for around once year at a time and gather in huge breeding colonies in springtime.
Birds on the edge of the group flirt with each other, by rubbing against each other, for example, before pairing off. 'Committed pairs' then move further into the colony and mate, while 'temporary pairs' try to form new partnerships. While previous studies have suggested a penguin's 'beak spot' may be an important differentiator for choosing a mate, a French study has shed light on just how important the bright orange area on either side of the bird's beak is. 

Bringing sexy beak: Birds on the edge of the group flirt with each other, by rubbing against each other (stock image) for example, before pairing off. Researchers found that penguins with similar-coloured beaks had more successful relationships than those in which the colours differed
Bringing sexy beak: Birds on the edge of the group flirt with each other, by rubbing against each other (stock image) for example, before pairing off. Researchers found that penguins with similar-coloured beaks had more successful relationships than those in which the colours differed

Like many other birds, penguins can see ultraviolet light, so the area looks more than orange to them. A team led by Ismaël Keddar of the Centre d'Ecologie Fonctionnelle et Evolutive in Montpellier, observed king penguins living on the Kerguelen Islands, between Antarctica and South Africa. Around 2,000 penguins congregate there to breed.

The scientists followed 75 pairs of birds on the edge of a colony flirting with each other. They caught them, weighed them and measured the colours of their beaks and chest patches. 

Plenty more fish in the sea: The scientists followed the birds’ romantic trysts to find that some committed and laid eggs, while others went their separate ways in a bid to find a better match. A stock image of a larger colony on South Georgia Island is shown
Plenty more fish in the sea: The scientists followed the birds' romantic trysts to find that some committed and laid eggs, while others went their separate ways in a bid to find a better match. A stock image of a larger colony on South Georgia Island is shown

They then released the birds, which were able to pair up again by recognising each other's voices. The scientists followed the birds' romantic trysts to find that some committed and laid eggs, while others went their separate ways in a bid to find a better match. Unravelling the secret to certain pairs' success using computer modelling, the researchers were able to see how beaks appear to other penguins. 
And they found that the birds' beak colours correlated to the success of their relationships.

In particular, they found king penguins that formed committed pairs had similar beak colours to each other, but the colours on their chests and side of their heads didn't matter.The authors write in the study: 'The members of definitive pairs, but not members of temporary pairs, were more similar for the colour of their beak spots than members of randomly formed pairs...but only for the UV/violet and yellow/orange colors of the beak spots.'

'Colour of the beak spots of females involved in definitive pairs suggested a stronger stimulation of UV-/violet-sensitive cones, a stronger stimulation of medium wave-sensitive cones (i.e. more yellow coloured) and a weaker stimulation of long wave-sensitive cones (i.e. less orange coloured) in the retinas of other penguins than females involved in temporary pairs.'

It is thought mutual attraction is necessary between the birds because they both take turns incubating an egg and raising a chick. 'An alternative hypothesis, however, is that females choose males with highly coloured beak spots, and only females with the most highly coloured beak spots proceed into the breeding colony for egg laying,' the study says.

The scientists also noted: '...females involved in definitive pairs had longer flippers and thus were probably larger in structural body size, compared to females involved in temporary pairs.'


King penguins (Aptenodytes patagonicus) are the second largest penguin, after the emperor. They are between 26 to 39 inches (70-100cm) tall and weigh 24 to 35lbs (11 to 16kg). They live in the South Atlantic and breed on sub Antarctic islands.

Penguins are serially monogamous, choosing one mate a year. They stay faithful to them for a period of time before moving onto the next. Committed couples raise a chick together and later put it in a crèche (pictured)
Penguins are serially monogamous, choosing one mate a year. They stay faithful to them for a period of time before moving onto the next. Committed couples raise a chick together and later put it in a crèche (pictured)

King penguins can breed from three years of age, but most wait until six. They are serially monogamous, choosing a mate a year and stay faithful to them for a period of time. But fidelity between years is only 29 per cent.

The birds flirt with each other on the edges of a colony and choose a mate based on the colour of their beak spot, the new study says. They move further into a colony if they have formed a committed pair and mate. It takes 14 to 16 months from the laying of an egg to offspring fledging, so most pairs only breed successfully every two to three years. The female lays one pear-shaped egg which is incubated for 55 days with the parents taking turns.

Chicks with only a thin covering of down are sheltered by their parents in a pouch for 30 to 40 days, by which time the chick has grown large enough to stay warm and protect itself from some predators. It begins to explore its surroundings and stays with other young penguins in a crèche, guarded by a few adults. It's 14 to 16 months before a young chick is ready to hunt at sea.

Chicks with only a thin covering of down are sheltered by their parents in a pouch for 30 to 40 days, by which time the chick has grown large enough to stay warm and protect itself from some predators. A stock image of a chick following its parent is shown
Chicks with only a thin covering of down are sheltered by their parents in a pouch for 30 to 40 days, by which time the chick has grown large enough to stay warm and protect itself from some predators. A stock image of a chick following its parent is shown

Thursday, September 17, 2015

#Penguin Thanks Veterinarians With Painting After Last Radiation Treatment

Grey/Silver the pengun. (Photo credit Tufts/via Facebook)
Grey/Silver the pengun. (Photo credit Tufts/via Facebook)
GRAFTON (CBS) — A penguin is showing his appreciation for the veterinarians who have been taking care of him.
Grey/Silver, a penguin at the Mystic Aquarium in Connecticut, recently completed radiation treatments at Foster Hospital For Small Animals at Tufts University.
The hospital said staff in the oncology ward grew quite attached to the little penguin, and he made sure to thank them.
“His caretakers at Mystic Aquarium were so thankful for the specialized treatment that Grey/Silver received that they presented the staff with this one-of-a-kind painting created by Grey/Silver himself,” the hospital said in a Facebook post.

Grey/Silver's painting (Photo credit Tufts/via Facebook)
Grey/Silver’s painting (Photo credit Tufts/via


#Penguin of the Day

King Penguin (Aptenodytes patagonicus) 

King Penguin (Aptenodytes patagonicus) chick by David Cook

#Penguins Find Each Other’s Beaks Sexy

By Elizabeth Preston | September 16, 2015 12381931225_8be0b5006d_b
If Tinder for penguins existed, birds with the best beak spots would get swiped right. King penguins are attracted to the colors on each other’s beaks, scientists have found—including colors we clueless humans can’t see.

King penguins (Aptenodytes patagonicus) live near the bottom of the world and are monogamous for about a year at a time. They’re a little smaller than emperor penguins, the ones you saw in March of the Penguins, and have a less arduous lifestyle. In the spring, they gather on the shore in massive breeding colonies. Individuals on the edges of the colony flirt with each other and form tentative pairs. Once two penguins have committed, they move farther into the colony and get down to business.

Earlier research suggested that the king penguin’s “beak spot” might be important to how it chooses mates. This is the vivid orange area on either side of the bottom of the beak. It’s really a vivid orange-and-ultraviolet area, if you have a penguin’s eyes. Penguins have cone cells that let them see UV, like many other birds, in addition to all the colors a human sees.

Ismaël Keddar of France’s Centre d’Ecologie Fonctionnelle et Evolutive and his colleagues went to the Kerguelen Islands, also called the Desolation Islands, to learn more. There, about 200,000 king penguins had come together to breed.

The researchers observed penguins at the periphery of the group and selected 75 pairs* who were in the flirting stage. They gently captured both members of a pair so they could weigh the penguins, measure the colors of their beaks and chest patches with a spectrophotometer, and take other vital stats. Then they released the birds where they’d captured them. (Even at this early relationship stage, penguin partners can find each other by their voices.) Afterward, the researchers kept monitoring these penguin pairs. Some committed and laid eggs, while others broke apart to seek better prospects.

Even though humans can’t see a penguin beak in all its UV glory, the scientists could use information about the light-sensing cells in penguins’ eyes to model how their beak colors looked to other penguins. They saw that relationship success was tied to beak color. Penguins that formed committed pairs had similar beak colors to each other.

The other factors that researchers measured, including the orange patches on penguins’ chests and the sides of their heads, didn’t matter. Only beak color seemed important to penguins trying to choose a mate.

It’s more common in birds for males to be flashy, and for drab females to choose among them. But in king penguins, each sex may be judging the other. The authors say this makes sense because both partners need to contribute heavily to raising young. The parents take turns incubating the egg, then balancing the newly hatched chick on their feet, while the other parent looks for food. If either parent is a deadbeat, the chick won’t make it.

So both male and female king penguins have to be picky. And looking for a partner with a beak like theirs is apparently a system that works—at least until penguins hear about Match.com.

*Two of the pairs were left out of the results because they turned out to be same-sex—one pair of females and one of males.
Image: by David Cook (via Flickr)

Keddar, I., Altmeyer, S., Couchoux, C., Jouventin, P., & Dobson, F. (2015). Mate Choice and Colored Beak Spots of King Penguins Ethology DOI: 10.1111/eth.12419


#Penguin site funding approved

Thu, 17 Sep 2015
Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony employee Tiare Barlow stands outside the colony's main building, which is part of a $400,000 expansion project. Photo by Daniel Birchfield.
Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony employee Tiare Barlow stands outside the colony's main building, which is part of a $400,000 expansion project. Photo by Daniel Birchfield.
A $400,000 expansion of the Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony is to be partially funded by the Waitaki District Council.  An internal loan of up to $250,000 to Tourism Waitaki, the organisation which operates the colony, was approved by councillors yesterday.

The colony's main building is to be expanded and a toilet block added.
The remaining $150,000 will be funded by Tourism Waitaki.  Tourism Waitaki general manager Jason Gaskill said the expansion was required to keep up with the number of visitors.

More than 75,000 people visited the colony each year. ''We are currently very, very tight when we have large crowds to provide adequate facilities. This extension is really to keep up with peak volumes.''

While happy to support the project, councillors Sally Hope and Melanie Tavendale expressed concerns that blueprints of the proposed expansion project were not provided. ''It should be something we can see,'' Cr Tavendale said. ''I find it disappointing the plans are not attached and there is no time frame as to when the loan will be paid back. There's so little actual detail here.''

Council chief financial officer Paul Hope said it was likely the loan would be repaid in about 10 years. He did not consider it to be a financial risk for council. ''The commitment is it will be a minimum cost to the council ... Council will not be worse off by approving this project.''

The land and buildings at the site are owned by the council, with the amount funded to be recovered through an amendment to the colony's lease between the council and Tourism Waitaki.

When asked by Cr Jim Hopkins if it was possible for Tourism Waitaki to one day buy the building, Tourism Waitaki chairman Marcus Brown said while it was an ''attractive proposal'', it was unlikely to happen. ''Our surplus is no great enough to do that.'' He added the expansion was essential given other penguin attractions a short distance from Oamaru. ''We are now facing competition within the industry, mainly in Dunedin and Timaru and elsewhere. If we want to be in the game, we have to update our facilities.''

The work is set to begin within six weeks.

 - by Daniel Birchfield 


Video: The key to a penguin's heart is a pebble

Published 16/09/2015

While the female Gentoo penguins wait, the males search for the smoothest looking pebble to present as a ‘love token’ to their chosen females.


Breaker Bay residents take penguin protection into their own hands

Wellington City councillor and Breaker Bay resident Ray Ahipene-Mercer takes Wiki, a stuffed female penguin, into schools to teach children about penguins.
Wellington City councillor and Breaker Bay resident Ray Ahipene-Mercer takes Wiki, a stuffed female penguin, into schools to teach children about penguins.

Breaker Bay residents are taking no chances when it comes to nesting penguins and have started a community of dog walkers to cut the risk of dogs attacking penguins.

Allen Jenkins said residents started a dog walking group and have nearly 30 members.

"There are at least 35 dogs in Breaker Bay and there's a wonderful group of people catching up with their dogs to make sure people know where dogs are allowed," he said.

Dogs are not allowed on the coastal walkway from Tarakena Bay to Moa Point as it is a penguin nesting area, and dogs are a threat to penguin populations.

Dog owners in the area self-manage the problem of dogs around penguins and do not need it from outside groups such as Forest and Bird, he said.

Forest and Bird Wellington branch committee member Ken New said the Places for Penguins programme operates around the south coast to protect penguins from threats.

"We've identified the two principal threats to Wellington penguins are dogs and cars," he said.

Some Breaker Bay residents were concerned that the Places for Penguins Take the Lead campaign would see Forest and Bird observing residents without their consent.

Forest and Bird had planned to observe behaviour to quantify the threats to penguins in the area.
But when the residents were not happy about it, they did not do it, New said

"We really appreciate groups like Breaker Bay looking after the penguins because we don't have to," he said.

Wellington City councillor and Breaker Bay resident Ray Ahipene-Mercer said education was the most important tool for keeping the penguins safe.

"In the last 20 years we've seen a great change from antipathy to protection. We have to maintain the momentum with the education and think about further creative ways of getting the message across," he said.

Ahipene-Mercer speaks to schools in the area about penguins and their nesting habits.
One of the most effective changes in the community was the installation of penguin crossing signs in 1990, he said.

The signs were replaced this year after the originals had deteriorated in Breaker Bay's wild weather.
Nests built by Breaker Bay residents were constantly full and the population of the penguins had increased in recent years, Ahipene-Mercer said.


Penguin plays tag with toddler at Tennessee aquarium

By Ben Hooper Contact the Author   |   Sept. 16, 2015

Hala the penguin plays with a toddler named Brynn at Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies in Tennessee. Jukin Media video screenshot 
GATLINBURG, Tenn., Sept. 16 (UPI) -- A young visitor to a Tennessee aquarium was recorded playing a game of "tag" with a speedily swimming penguin that seemed fascinated by its land-dwelling playmate.
The video, posted to YouTube by user Shelley Family, shows a toddler named Brynn running back and forth in front of the glass of the penguin exhibit while one of the flightless birds swims in pursuit at Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies in Gatlinburg.
The uploader said the bird in the video was identified as a penguin named Hala.
The family said the penguin appeared to be playing a game of "tag" with the toddler.


Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

This colony of the world's tiniest penguins has its own sheepdog guardians

By Earth Touch September 15 2015 
They've been our best friends for centuries, and in more recent years, dogs have proved they can also be our allies in conservation, from sniffing out endangered species to fighting wildlife crime. One place where they've notched up a major conservation victory is on a small island off the Australian coast, where a colony of tiny penguins has been brought back from the brink – a success story that's now inspired a multimillion-dollar movie that opens in the country this week.

Middle Island, a rocky outcrop off the coast of Victoria, is best known for its avian inhabitants: it's home to a colony of the world's smallest penguins. Just 33 centimetres tall (13 inches), the little penguin – or fairy penguin, if you prefer (of course you do!) – tips the scales at only around one kilogram.

Blue Little Penguins 2015 09 15
The world's smallest penguin species, the little penguin (Eudyptula minor) stands just 33cm off the ground. Image: JJ Harrison, Flickr
While the birds spend most of their lives at sea, they do come ashore when breeding season rolls round – and that's where Middle Island's residents began running into trouble. The few hundred metres that separate the island from the mainland are not much of an obstacle for hungry foxes who proved quite capable of crossing the distance at low tide for the promise of an easy penguin meal.
With the predators picking off the defenceless birds, populations began to plummet dangerously: by 2005, what was once a colony numbering in the hundreds had been left with fewer than ten survivors. 

Enter "Oddball". The maremma sheepdog was initially bought by a mainland farmer whose chickens were being targeted by the very same enemy. "I used to spend my nights up with a rifle shooting foxes. One night I noticed the neighbour's dog barking and the light went on in my head. I realised he was barking at the same thing I was trying to shoot," the farmer, Allan Marsh, told ABC last year.
Marsh decided to get a dog of his own, and Oddball soon proved to be a pro at keeping foxes away from the farm. After a series of fortunate events, the sheepdog ended up on Middle Island, where wildlife officials hoped her chicken-guarding skills could work to keep the penguins safe too.

Maremma -dogs -handler _2015_09_15
Since the maremma sheepdogs arrived on the island, no penguins have been lost to foxes. Image: Warrnambool City Council
Just as certain traits in high-energy Belgian shepherds make them great allies on anti-poaching missions in South Africa, centuries of breeding have made maremma sheepdogs the perfect guardians. Long used in Europe to keep livestock safe from wolves and foxes, the dogs are calm, highly intelligent and gentle, yet fiercely protective of their flocks.
Oddball first set paw on Middle Island in 2006, when the penguin colony was on the verge of total collapse. Since then, other maremmas have followed in her footsteps, and the Middle Island Maremma Project has proved a major conservation success. Fox attacks have stopped entirely and penguin numbers have been recovering, with around 180 birds at last count.
Eudy Maremma Dog 2015 09 15
Eudy is one of two maremma sheepdogs guarding Middle Island's penguin colony during the breeding season. Image: Warrnambool City Council
Today, the pooch patrols are carried out by sisters Tula and Eudy, who spend five days of the week on the island during the penguin breeding season. "They love living on the island; they get very excited when they go back there," says Peter Abbott, one of the dog handlers for the project. The dogs also ensure humans keep away, to minimise any disruption to nests.

After many summers of hard work, the dog duo has now reached retirement age, so the team is looking to raise funds to train a new generation of penguin guardians. And getting enough support for that project may prove easier when a movie based on Oddball's amazing story hits Australian cinemas this week.