Photos courtesy of the Aquarium of the Pacific by Robin Riggs.
The Aquarium of the Pacific announced the birth of its newest, fluffiest addition to the family, a Magellanic Penguin chick who hatched on June 5. The baby will make its public debut and join the other penguins in the June Keyes Penguin Habitat on Tuesday, August 18.
The new chick represents the third generation of aquarium-born penguins. Paddles, Jayde, Mattson and Skipper were born in 2014, while Heidi and Anderson both came into the world the year before. Penguins Roxy and Floyd are the parents of this year’s chick, while Heidi and Anderson are its siblings.
Magellanic Penguin chicks are born with a downy layer of plumage that is not watertight. For safety reasons, including preventing the chick from wandering into the water before its feathers are fit for a swim, the chicks are removed from their nests after 25 days to a behind-the-scenes nursery until their down is replaced by watertight juvenile feathers, a process called fledging. The chick will also learn to swim and to take hand-fed fish before it is moved to the penguin habitat to rejoin its fine feathered community.
According to Dudley Wigdahl, curator of birds and mammals at the aquarium, the chick only weighed about 70 grams when it hatched in early June, while it now weighs about seven pounds. It's about three quarters through the fledging process (it still has some downey feathers on its back) and its gender will be determined through a blood test near the end of next week.
"To the inexperienced eye, both males and females look exactly alike," he said of the species. "There is a little bit of difference when they're adults, the males are slightly heavier, slightly taller, the bill is slightly longer, but there's an overlap, so you can't really be 100 percent sure until someone lays an egg."
And while the chick hasn't been named yet, Wigdahl says that its keepers have noticed a little spunk in its personality.
"It's more interested in playing than in eating food, so this one seems to be a very curious bird," he said.
Magellanic Penguins are a temperate species native to the coasts of Argentina and Chile in South America. According to the aquarium, it takes between 38 and 43 days of incubation before this type of Penguin egg will hatch. Chicks hatch with their eyes closed and are able to open them about a week later. In the wild, Magellanic Penguin parents take turns incubating the eggs on the nest and feeding and raising the chicks after they hatch.
The chick will be reintroduced to friends and family on Tuesday, August 18, when the public can take a gander at the once-fluffy bundle starting at 9:00AM when the aquarium opens. However, if you'd like to see the bird before its introduction to the exhibit, you can check out the live webcam here.
The public can also support the nonprofit’s newest addition to the family through the Adopt an Animal Program. Those who adopt a chick at the $50 level or above will be entered into an opportunity drawing for a penguin encounter and a one-of-a-kind painting by a penguin chick. For more information, click here.