Lincoln Park Zoo recently welcomed a newborn baby bird – the first African penguin chick hatched and reared at the zoo’s relatively new penguin habitat.
The chick, which hatched Feb. 10 after a 38-day incubation period, is currently behind the scenes preparing to join the penguin colony at the Robert and Mayari Pritzker Penguin Cove. The 3,350-square-foot, $7 million space opened in 2016 and offers the zoo’s 16 African penguins a 20,500-gallon pool, a sandy beach for digging and other features simulating their natural habitat.
The chick’s birth is part of the African Penguin Species Survival Plan, a collaborative population management effort among zoos and aquariums across North America. The species was classified as endangered in 2010 after experiencing rapid population decline over the past century as a result of commercial fishing and changes in prey populations, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
Lincoln Park Zoo’s veterinary staff examined the chick at birth and deemed it healthy. They also drew blood to determine the chick's sex and are still waiting for results from the lab analysis.
The chick is the offspring of first-time parents Robben, the female, and Preston, the male.
“Our keepers are constantly monitoring both the parents and the chick to ensure that the parents are meeting the chick’s needs as it reaches developmental milestones,” said Sunny Nelson, the zoo’s Hope B. McCormick Curator of Birds, in a statement. “Both Robben and Preston are performing parental duties as expected, sharing brooding and feeding responsibilities.”
African penguin chicks usually leave the nest 70 to 80 days after hatching, though they retain their downy feathers until molting into their waterproof juvenile plumage. After one to two years, the penguins go through another molt, a three-step process in which they shed their worn-out feathers to make way for new ones. This time, the penguins molt into their iconic tuxedo-like adult plumage.
Native to the shores of South Africa and Namibia, African penguins are one of 18 penguin species worldwide.
March 22: The yet-to-be-named chick is healthy and being hand-reared by animal care staff, the zoo said this week.
July 24: For the first time, Lincoln Park Zoo is offering visitors a chance to get up close and personal with their African penguins. We meet three waddling, webbed-feet bachelors.
Feb. 20, 2017: For the fifth year, members of Shedd Aquarium's Animal Response Team participated in a rescue mission of endangered penguin chicks in South Africa. Learn about their work.