Penguin Breeding Season Has Arrived!

March 7, 2011 § Leave a comment


It is going to get very exciting inside the penguin enclosure during the next couple of months as the annual breeding season for our penguins has begun! Leading up to the beginning of March gentoo penguins started to return to their nest site and many of them were waiting patiently when our keepers brought them their nest rings. This happened at the beginning of March and the gentoo nest site can be seen clearly from the penguin observation hut.

As the gentoo breeding season has only just begun the main behaviours to be observed in the enclosure at the moment will be courtship between breeding pairs of birds and the construction of nests.

You get a good view of the gentoo nest site from the observation hut - watch out for any courtship!

Many of our gentoos breed with the same partner year after year but the female’s choice of mate is ultimately based on the males’ behaviour. Males will choose a potential nest site and call out to passing females who will come and inspect it. If the nest and male are deemed suitable then mutual displaying and calling will occur between the pair. Nests will then start to be made. They are mainly made out of pebbles and our keepers have put plenty inside the enclosure for our penguins to choose from!

Both males and females help to construct the nest and they will collect pebbles from around the enclosure but also sometimes steal them from a neighbouring pair’s nest! The pebbles help to anchor the eggs once laid and also provide suitable drainage in the nest. The nest-building phase of the breeding season will last for several weeks and we can expect to start seeing the first eggs being laid in April – we will keep you updated on the zoo blog!

It’s not just our gentoo penguins that are preoccupied with breeding at the moment so are our northern rockhopper penguins. You’ll find our rockhoppers in the crèche enclosure which is on the north-east side of the penguin pool, just below the Penguin Cafe. In here you will see several small nests which have already been filled with stones by our rockhoppers. If any eggs are laid this year then we will see them appear at the end of March or the beginning of April. Unfortunately, our rockhoppers didn’t breed last year so fingers crossed for 2011!

One of our rockhoppers on a nest

We still have some time to wait for the king penguin breeding season to begin – we should hopefully see lots of courtship behaviour in April. Before this though our king penguins will go through their annual moult, so expect to see them looking a little bit dishevelled if you come to the zoo in March! By moulting just before the breeding season the king penguins look their very best whilst attracting a mate.

The old feathers of the king penguin on the left of the photo are being replaced with new ones making him look all fluffy!

Like our rockhoppers, our kings didn’t breed last year but were successful in 2009 (you can still recognise Maclean the king “chick” from the others – his orange patches on his head are much paler) so we are hopeful for success this year.

Keep checking the blog for updates on our penguin breeding season and don’t forget that you can watch the penguins at your leisure using our Penguin Cam! Just follow this link:  http://www.edinburghzoo.org.uk/EZPenguinCam.html

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