In June 2016 we welcomed the arrival of our very first penguin chicks! The male was named Attenborough and the female Lizzie after David Attenborough and Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II who both celebrated their 90th Birthdays during this year.
All of our penguins have successfully paired since their arrival in 2014 with breeding and nesting behaviour observed each subsequent year – a clear indication that they are happy in their home.
You can still see Attenborough and Lizzie in our display, being the babies of the bunch they are rather playful and very inquisitive – you may be lucky to hear one of them call!
Did you know that Gentoo penguins can lay up to two eggs each year? They choose their partner by bowing their heads to each other, and once they are happy with their choice of mate, the male will start to collect stones to create a comfortable nest for his partner. But... penguins can be sneaky! You may often see them stealing stones they like from other penguins' nests.
The eggs are laid about five days apart and are exactly the same size. To make sure which one is which, our keepers mark the egg. They are then incubated for around 35 days. Both parents take turns sitting on the eggs in the nest and it is never left alone.
When the chick is ready to hatch, it must break through an internal membrane into an air space. The chick uses an 'egg tooth' on its beak to break through the shell. This is called pipping. Hatching is hard work and it can take up to a day for the chick to completely emerge from the egg. Our keepers closely monitor the chick's progress every few hours.
Chicks will be roughly 90gms in weight when they emerge from the egg. Their growth is rapid and they can grow up to 850gms at just two weeks - an increase of nearly 1000%.
Gentoo adults can be fed on the nest so the pair can keep their energy up whilst feeding the chick. Being this close up gives us the opportunity to check up on the chick and begin some training to hand feed them. After three months, the chick reaches adult size and their soft baby feathers moult. The adults then leave their chicks to go in search of food.