Captivating may be one of the best words to describe the gentoo and macaroni penguins at the Tennessee Aquarium. Visitors have been flocking to Penguins’ Rock to see these little characters in person all summer long, thrilled by their sub-Antarctic antics.
After chilling out with the penguins during one of Chattanooga’s hottest summers on record, a record number of guests logged onto the Aquarium’s website to suggest the perfect penguin names. The 15 names selected were just the tip of the iceberg. A blizzard of more then 8,200 entries buried the judges who had to dig through all of the monikers to match the amusing traits of the individual birds. It’s an amazing number of entries for a contest that ran less than three months.
Some of the tags were perfect matches for a particular penguin’s physical characteristics. “Hercules is the largest of our macaroni penguins,” says Amy Graves, senior aviculturist at the Aquarium. “He is a big bird who is one-quarter larger than the other macs.” Also aptly named is Poncho the largest of the gentoos weighing in at more than 20 pounds.
Two of the birds were hand raised at SeaWorld and are much more accustomed to human interaction than the penguins that were parent raised. “Nippy for example nips at everything,” says Graves. “His curiosity went into overdrive shortly after he got here. He’s the first to investigate anything new and different.” So Graves has to be extra careful with anything Nippy could snap up with his beak and swallow. Bug was also hand reared, and seems to have an extra helping of curiosity. “Bug quickly comes up to you to investigate what you have and what you are doing, but he usually doesn’t nip.”
Noodle was a popular entry in the contest and turns out to be a fitting name for a macaroni penguin that’s the smallest of that species as well. Iggy is the youngest macaroni at Penguins’ Rock.
Sometimes a name may not match up with a penguin’s most recent behavior. Consider Shamrock, a lucky gentle name for a macaroni who seems to have a bottomless stomach right now. “Shamrock is eating up a storm right now,” reports Graves. “She is usually at the keeper’s door waiting for more fish lately.”
Four of the macaroni penguins already had names; one male – Hercules, and three females – Little Debbie, Shamrock and Sweet Pea. The rest were chosen by Tennessee Aquarium guests from Chattanooga and throughout the Southeast.
The winning names and contest winners are:
Iggie - Caitlin Crowley, Decatur, Ala.
Merlin – Brittany Murray, Dalton
Paulie – Stan Myatt, Murfreesboro
Chaos – Stephen Culp, Chattanooga
Noodle – Niccole Jones, Paducah, Ky.
Big T – Allyson Ross, Soddy Daisy
Blue – Kim Hooper, Chattanooga
Nippy – Tim Richardson, Chattanooga
Poncho – Ann Walton, Chattanooga
Zeus – Niccole Click, Cowan, Tn.
Biscuit – Dawn Paschal, Five Points, Ala.
Bug – Kendra Thrash, Chattanooga
Flower – Chrissy L. Beaty, Cleveland, Tn.
Pebbles – Arianna Martin, Buford, Ga.
Peeps – BJ Davis, Chattanooga
These individuals won passes to the Tennessee Aquarium to see “their” penguin in action.