Penguin Nesting Season Begins April 1 At The Tennessee Aquarium

Friday, March 25, 2016 - by Thom Benson
A Gentoo Penguin building a nest
A Gentoo Penguin building a nest
- photo by Tennessee Aquarium

Experts at the Tennessee Aquarium are preparing for the start of the 2016 nesting season at Penguins’ Rock. This process will begin on March 30 with a bit of a rodeo. At a waddle’s pace, all of the Gentoo and Macaronis will be rounded up for a trip behind the scenes to visit the Aquarium’s veterinarian. While all of the birds are getting their semi-annual physical examinations, other staff members will give the chilly habitat a thorough spring cleaning. They will drain the penguin pool and pressure wash the entire exhibit while also performing preventative maintenance on the exhibit’s wave machine.

On April 1, several hundred pounds of “magic rocks” will be brought out for the birds. This triggers the somewhat frenzied nest-building activities that usually lasts until the first eggs start appearing about one month later.

Even though experts have discredited the myth that male penguins “propose” to females with a single pebble, both Gentoo and Macaroni penguins build rock nests. The process is an important part of courtship and bonding. Each spring, Aquarium aviculturists provide nesting rocks to the penguins and an immediate swarm of activity ensues.

Nesting season is always a fun time to visit the Aquarium to observe some of the most peculiar penguin behaviors seen throughout the year. And, just like any other romance, sometimes there’s a little drama. “While certain penguin species have long-term mates, it’s not always the case,” said Tennessee Aquarium senior aviculturist Loribeth Lee. “For example, while Hercules has nested with Shamrock in the past, last year he raised a chick with Little Debbie.”

Nest building is serious business and penguin pairs work meticulously to get it just right – sometimes resorting to some sneaky antics. Gentoo Penguin Nipper is not the only penguin who seems to find pleasure in plucking pebbles from another unsuspecting couple’s nest. “Rock stealing is fairly common in penguin colonies,” said Ms. Lee. “Researchers have even studied how many times rocks have been stolen and passed from nest to nest. Here at the Aquarium you’ll frequently see Gentoos and Macaronis snatching rocks from another nest.”

Of course, the most exciting part of nesting season is hoping for the pitter patter of baby penguin feet later this summer. Last year’s season brought a new Macaroni and three baby Gentoos – one of which was the Aquarium’s first penguin chick to be raised by foster parents.

Keepers go on watch as soon as nesting begins, looking for eggs and eventually chicks. The first Macaroni eggs usually start showing up in early May. The Gentoos typically lag about one month behind with their first eggs showing up in early June. “Every nesting season is different and fun,” said Ms. Lee. “It’s hard to tell who enjoys watching it unfold the most…Aquarium staff and volunteers or our guests.”



This Week’s Tennessee Tourism Round Up

Scavenger hunts, specialty burgers for a bargain, beer & cheese pairings, free concerts, movies under the stars, sing-along musicals, a 90s party, a craft fair and unique festivals like Uncle Dave Macon Days and Kingsport Fun Fest are all on tap this week across Tennessee. For a complete list of events, visit  tnvacation.com/calendar . Ongoing Tennessee State ... (click for more)

Architectural Tour Of The Artsy Los Angeles Neighborhood Of Silver Lake

A few years ago, Forbes ranked the Silver Lake neighborhood the hippest in Los Angeles. The magazine might have questionable credentials in the judgment of cool, but it got this one right. The flatlands have lots of indie stores, art galleries, and nightclubs, graffiti art is everywhere, foodies jam restaurants like Moby’s vegan Little Pine, and there is a cottage industry of ... (click for more)

Toned-Down UnifiEd PAC Effort Funds Coppinger, Fairbanks, Smedley, Sharpe, Gorman, Mackey

The UnifiEd PAC, which helped engineer a surprise County Commission election victory in May for political newcomer Katherlyn Geter, is not making public endorsements in the Aug. 2 election, but is putting its money behind a small slate of candidates. The financial disclosures for UnifiEd show the group strongly backing County Mayor Jim Coppinger over Democratic opponent Aloyse ... (click for more)

Juvenile Girl Who Was Shot On Doolittle Street Early Sunday Morning Has Critical Injuries

A juvenile girl who was shot early Sunday morning on Doolittle Street was in critical condition. Chattanooga Police responded at approximately 12:55 a.m. on to a person shot on the 2500 block of Doolittle Street.   Police were able to make contact with the victim at a local hospital where she was suffering from a critical, but non-life threatening gunshot wound. The ... (click for more)

Just Recuse Yourself

Pam Fleenor, have you ever heard the terms “conflict of interest” or “appearance of impropriety”? It’s a foregone conclusion that Robin Smith will be victorious in Chancellor Fleenor’s courtroom. Here’s another term you may want to re-examine, recuse yourself.   Rusty Munger (click for more)

Don't Let UnifiEd Take District 6

The UnifiEd APEX organization is working to remove Commissioner Joe Graham and has their poster candidate running in opposition to Michael Henry for School Board.   Please get the facts before you vote in the District 6 county races and reject the UnifiEd APEX candidates.   Hamilton County Commissioner Joe Graham and Michael Henry, School Board candidate District ... (click for more)