Sunday, July 17th 2016
Chattanooga, TN — Two penguin chicks were born the first week of June at the Tennessee Aquarium. They are now a little more than half way through their growing phase and will not have their chick-characteristics much longer.
"Roughly at about 10 weeks, they are going to be adult size. They will get their adult feathers and they will be ready to leave the nest. These are Gentoo penguins. They are the third largest of all the penguin species and are known for being some of the fastest swimming birds in the entire world," said LoriBeth Lee, a senior aviculturist at the Tennessee Aquarium.
These penguins can top out at speeds of 20 miles per hour.
"These guys cannot swim at all right now, but they will be amazing swimmers," said Lee.
Before they reach the 10-week mark, chicks have very soft, downy feathers. Adults develop the water-proof feathers. Once they have those, it will be time for their first swim.
"The babies right now look very soft and are very soft. They also are pretty dirty because they can't really take a bath. They can't really clean themselves right now. Their parents are Bisquit and Blue," said Lee.
This is the first time two adult parents at the Tennessee Aquarium have been able to raise chicks on their own. They did get a bit of practice though, because they were surrogate parents last year. Both Bisquit and Blue surprised aquarium workers with their skills.
"When both parents were in the nest they would each sit on one baby and kind of split the responsibilities," said Lee.
Parental duties include feeding the chicks regurgitated fish or protecting them until they are ready to hit the cold water. Lee said they will not know the gender of the penguins until their first physicals, which are at the end of the year. Lee explained they are hoping the chicks are both boys, because they have hatched quite a few females at the Aquarium lately.