Visitors to the Oregon Zoo will soon be able to meet some Humboldt penguin chicks. The zoo has hatched three chicks which will be out and about exploring the zoo’s penguinarium once they have grown a bit more.
Currently the penguins are chilling out in their nest boxes and growing on a diet of regurgitated fish which their parents provide. Curator Michael Illig, who oversees the zoo’s birds, describes the chicks as, “velvety gray plush toys.”
Currently keepers are unaware of their gender which won’t be known until their first full veterinary check-up in three months time.
“They weigh just a few ounces and can fit in the palm of your hand,” he added. By summer (June in the US) they will be as tall as the adults but will still be grayish-brown all over making them easy to distinguish from the larger penguins in their ‘tuxedoes’. These take a number of years to develop.
Once they fledge the young penguins will take straight to the water. Visitors to the penguinarium can get a view of them swimming in the crystal clear waters of their exhibit.
Humboldt penguins are naturally found on the coast of Peru and Chile. Currently they are classed as “vulnerable” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. During 2010 they were granted protection under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.
Threats to these penguins, which number just 12,000 breeding pairs in the wild, include entanglement in fishing nets, overfishing of their prey items and breeding disruption due to the guano deposits where they lay their eggs being removed.
Oregon Zoo supports work to protect the Humboldt penguin in their natural habitat through its Future for Wildlife Program.
They have also supplied a list of 7 small actions that people can undertake at home to help save penguins. You can find them here – 7 small actions that help save penguins | Oregon Zoo
Photo Credit: Oregon Zoo