Saturday, July 2, 2016

Birds of a feather feel the weather

Tux is at home at Dolphin Marine Magic.
Tux is at home at Dolphin Marine Magic. Trevor Veale
TUXEDO is a true blue local and like many of us, he’s been feeling the cold lately.
A resident at Dolphin Marine Magic, Tuxedo – “my friends call me Tux” – is a little blue penguin born last year to Rosalie and Brendan Penguin.

Many visitors to the marine park assume Tux and his family are migrants to the Coffs Coast but they’re mistaken.
Little blue penguins are the only species of penguin native to Australia. They’re found along our southern coastline, as far north as Coffs Harbour and, like many Aussies, they’re also found in New Zealand.

Greg Pickering is another true blue local. He’s been part of the marine team at DMM for 46 years and has a special place in his heart for Tux and his friends.
“They’re just like a typical bird, they fly but it’s all under water; they are really incredible little birds,” Greg said.

He knows them all by name and when Greg calls out to Ducky, Digger, Rebecca, Shelley, Spencer, Tux and the rest of the gang they all recognise and respond to his gentle voice.
When asked which one is his favourite, Greg is almost like a parent, not wanting to single out anybody but little Tux does hold a special place.

“Tux is quite timid, he is still young so is dominated by the older birds, poor guy is at the bottom of the pecking order and he also has to deal with Ruby, his bossy older sister.
“Normally the breeding season is June to October but the long dry season last year meant the breeding season was extended and Tux was a December baby which is a bit unusual.”

Tux and his mates enjoy a diet of white bait, blue pilchards and bottle squid and hang out in a specially designed enclosure that imitates their natural habitat; with one surprise addition.
“For a bit of different texture we put in a mat of artificial grass behind the trees and Tux and the others love it. They all congregate on the mat rather than the sand because it’s warmer on their feet during winter.”

Even in the middle of winter Greg doesn’t get to sleep in, as Tux and the gang are up before daylight.
“They get up pretty early, you ought to hear the noise around here at 4am. Breakfast is at 7am and then it’s public feeding at 11.30am and 2pm (after each show) which is always really popular, especially with the kids.”

Some penguins at DMM come from other breeding programs, others have been rescued locally like Shelley, who has extensive damage to her leg because of discarded fishing line.
“All the birds are micro-chipped and registered so we know who is who and don’t interbreed and we exchange bloodlines with other parks. Eva and Eddie are our ‘sea changers’, they came here from Melbourne Zoo and are one of our breeding pairs who have eggs at the moment.”

To learn more about Tux, his penguin pals, and how to protect our marine environment, visit Dolphin Marine Magic.

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