Ahead of their annual moult the Northern rockhopper penguins at Edinburgh Zoo have stepped up onto the scales. The penguins normally weigh in at about 8 pounds and stand just 20 inches tall. They have been putting on weight ahead of their moult.
Moulting is a period where the penguins replace their old feathers by pushing them out.
Senior penguin keeper at Edinburgh Zoo, Dawn Nicholl said, ‘We weigh our penguins regularly, around once a week, to keep track of their individual weights. Overweight penguins are less active, less likely to breed and are generally less healthy.’
Their expectations change at moult time she added, “At this time of year, during the annual moult, we expect our birds to weigh that little bit more – this is fine and very normal. They will naturally lose weight after their two to three week moult is complete. As penguins are not waterproof, when they moult they naturally fatten up on fish to prepare for the two to three weeks which, in the wild, they would spend on land fasting. Penguins also moult all their feathers at once.”
Even one of the zoo’s biggest personalities is not immune says Nicholl. “Bruce, one of the bigger rockhopper personalities at Penguins Rock, is looking pretty scruffy right now as he is mid moult; he is also looking a bit chunky. Bruce is currently just standing in his favourite corner and occasionally taking the odd sprat when we take some over to him.”
Even harsher is that sister Brucetta is the best looking one the beach with her moult complete she added, “Brucetta, the sister of Bruce, on the other hand was the first rocky to finish this year’s moult. She has transformed into a shiny new penguin as she has just lost about one-fifth of her body weight and has a beautiful new coat.”
The moult also means the close of penguin breeding season for 2014 meaning keepers have got to work removing the penguins nests.
90% of the rockhopper penguin population has been lost in the past 45 years leading to a listing of endangered on the IUCN red list for this species. A further loss was suffered in 2013 when an oil spill at Tristan Da Cunha left 3,600 of these penguins covered in oil. They are also under threat by overfishing, pollution and global warming.
The penguins can viewed eating fish, queuing for a shower in the waterfall or taking a jump off the diving board on the zoo’s penguin cam at http://www.edinburghzoo.org.uk/webcams/penguin-cam/
Photo Credit: Edinburgh Zoo