What’s better than a new baby penguin at the Tennessee Aquarium? Two new baby penguins! The Gentoo chicks - born to two separate penguin pairs – are just over a month old and already showing their plucky penguin personalities.
The oldest, and the first Gentoo to hatch this year at the Aquarium, is the offspring of Biscuit and Blue. “This chick is already testing boundaries,” says Aquarium aviculturist Loribeth Aldrich. He or she is already curiously testing everything with its beak and continually knocking over mom and dad’s food bowl.” The chick already makes a hissing sound that adult Gentoos are known to do that is akin to a goose’s warning hiss. “It almost sounds like a deep Darth Vader noise,” said Ms. Aldrich.
The second chick was born to a very experienced pair, Bug and Big T. Right now this little bird is happiest in the nest, snuggled up behind mom and dad. However, during checkups and weigh-ins, this cuddly-looking chick shows familiar signs of his parents’ feisty attitudes. “With those genes, this is going to be one tough bird!” said Ms. Aldrich.
These two newest babies come on the heels of the Aquarium’s first Macaroni penguin chick announced last month. Aquarium penguin experts are also watching the activity of a few more breeding pairs, hoping for more chicks later this season.
With a current total of three chicks and the possibility of more, Curator of Forests Dave Collins explains that the success of the Tennessee Aquarium’s penguin breeding program stems largely from the careful preparation that began in 2007. “A strong husbandry program is key in making sure every bird’s needs are met,” he said. “Proper diet, a strict cleaning schedule and outstanding veterinary support are very important – especially during nesting season. These factors contribute to the best conditions possible for the colony, which are needed to encourage bonding, strong mating pairs and healthy chicks.”
Aquarium guests can view the two newest penguin babies by looking for the acrylic “playpens” inside Penguins’ Rock. The chicks will remain within the protective barriers for several weeks. “It won’t be safe for them to get in the water until they have grown their swim feathers,” explains Aldrich. “But you’ll see frequent feedings throughout the day as the parents try to keep up with the chicks’ rather voracious appetites.”
Visitors can also add the Ocean Journey Backstage Pass to their Aquarium admission for a special bird’s-eye view of the colony from the penguin keeper’s observation deck.