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.”


Tennessee Aquarium Leaping Into World Lemur Day On Oct. 20 With Special Programs, Activities

Never mind their captivating charisma and seemingly endless abundance of energy, being a lemur is a pretty tough gig.   Thanks to a host of ecological challenges in their native Madagascar, all of the more than 100 species of these acrobatic animals are endangered to one degree or another. As a group, they are the world’s most-imperiled class of mammal.   ... (click for more)

Parades, Planes, Playgrounds, And More At The 2018 Wings Over North Georgia Air Show

The seventh annual  Wings Over North Georgia Air Show  is guaranteed to have something for everyone. Air show performances will include 70-year old warbirds, a fifth-generation fighter jet, skydivers, jet cars, world-renowned aerobatic performers, and a 45-minute reenactment of the Dec. 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. The air show will be Oct. 13-14, in Rome, Ga. ... (click for more)

Chattanooga Airport Has Biggest Month Yet; Work May Start Next Year On Parking Deck With 1,300 Spaces

The Chattanooga Airport set a record in September with 44,000 enplanements, the highest ever for one month. This was an increase of nine percent over September 2017, and deplanements were in line, said Terry Hart president and CEO. He said that more parking is needed near the terminal to keep up with the growth. The 20-year master plan includes a parking deck with around 1,300 ... (click for more)

Firefighters Climb 150 Feet To Extinguish Fire At Ardent Mills

Chattanooga firefighters had to climb 150 feet to extinguish a fire at a flour mill off Amnicola Highway on Monday morning. A call came in at  7:35 a.m. for the  fire at 1 Riverside Lane. Ardent Mills reported smoke in the building and all employees were evacuated. Fire crews arriving on the scene could see light smoke coming from a vent on the upper half ... (click for more)

Why Are Joda Thongnopnua And Phil Bredesen Downplaying Their Democratic Values?

For the past several months, the Democratic Party has reached a tipping point. “Their Resistance” is to oppose anything and everything Republicans are doing to deliver a stronger economy and better economic opportunities for all Americans.  Yet, I find it very interesting that the public outcry we are seeing from the Democrats on a national level is nowhere to be found when ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: It’s ‘Tennessee Week’

For over 50 years I have heard the line, “There are two things you must never do on ‘The Third Saturday of October.’ You mustn’t ever marry and try not to die because, in either case, the preacher won’t show up.” He’ll be watching “The Game.” Ever since Oct 18, 1901, Tennessee and Alabama have been going at it and that inaugural game set the tone as well as the standard for all ... (click for more)