While Princess Kate is still waiting to have her baby Wildlife Conservation Society’s (WCS) Central Park Zoo already has a royal arrival. This little King penguin chick is the first ever hatched in New York.
The hatching comes as a result of expertise and careful husbandry techniques which the keepers and curators diligently carry out.
“This hatching is a wonderful accomplishment for our staff. It will be a treat to watch this penguin mature,” said Craig Piper who is the director of city zoos for the WCS. “This was the first year that the king penguin chicks were old enough to potentially produce a fertile egg and we’re thrilled that conditions proved right for them to incubate, hatch, and care for the chick.”
Recently the chick has gone on exhibit. Though it hatched in August the chick and its parents have spent time behind the scenes so keepers could carefully monitor the health and development of the chick. Visitors to the zoo will watch it transform from a brownish fluff-ball to an elegant adult penguin.
King penguins have only lived at the Central Park Zoo since 2010. They joined the polar circle habitat which also houses Gentoo, chinstrap and rockhopper penguins. Currently the habitat is home to over 60 penguins with 7 of those being king penguins.
Currently keepers are unaware of the sex of the chick.
The polar circle is a naturalistic habitat built to replicate the conditions of Antarctica. Both air and water temperatures are set below 40 degrees farenheit ( 4.4oC) at all times. The exhibit is lit to adjust like the day night cycles in Antarctica. By following the same sunrise and sunset pattern it triggers their instinctual mating behaviours and leads to breeding.
King penguin parents are dedicated to keeping the egg safe. They don’t build a nest instead storing it between their legs under a flap of skin called a brood pouch. During this time they will pass the egg back and forth between each other. This lasts for 53 to 62 days with parents caring for the chick for 10 to 13 months.
The chick will feed on partly digested food which is regurgitated by the parents. Between 8 and 10 months of age the brown down feathers begin to disappear and are replaced by their black, white and yellow plumage.
King pengins come from subantartic islands along with Tierra del Fuego and the Falkland Islands. The second largest penguin species they are not yet endangered but are under threat from climate change, overfishing and habitat degredation.
Photo Credit: WCS/ Julie Larsen Maher