Gentoo breeding season at Edinburgh Zoo

July 22, 2014 § Leave a comment

By Dawn Nicoll, Senior Keeper, Penguin Section

We are now in the middle of summer and things have definitely been hotting up at Penguins Rock.

Gentoo chick by Dawn Nicoll

Gentoo chick by Dawn Nicoll

In the month of April we saw some of the first eggs laid by our breeding gentoo penguins. Our penguins become dedicated to their nests and eggs working as a close pair to protect them. Taking turns, the male and female sit tight on their two eggs keeping them warm under their brood pouch. Throughout the space of 36 days they gently turn the eggs aiding the full development of the baby penguin inside.

By May, we saw some of our first chicks hatch out to join the colony. Starting at a tiny 96 grams they gain roughly 10% of their body weight a day, with such a steep growth rate it only takes two months for our chicks to reach 4.5kg and be ready to leave their parents.

Watching the nest site at this time is both rewarding and entertaining. Every day the chicks are growing, learning new behaviours and becoming increasingly independent. Our older chicks are now taking an interest in swimming and building up their confidence with the water by practicing their snorkelling techniques.

In the wild gentoos would crèche their chicks together while they go out to fish. This helps the chicks to become less dependent on their parents and learn to defend for themselves. Here at Edinburgh zoo we replicate this stage in their development by moving them into our smaller enclosure. In this crèche environment the chicks learn to take fish from the keepers and master the art of swimming in our smaller pool. Currently we have four of our 10 chicks in the crèche and the other chicks will follow soon.

Don’t forget you can keep up with all the action on our Penguin Cam.


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