Moscow Zoo welcomes the birth of Humboldt penguins

February 15, 2018

A Moscow Zoo colony of Humboldt penguins –  a rare endangered species – has grown. Four chicks hatched over a month ago with the first seeing the light of day on 1 January, two others followed on 3 January and the last one on 5 January.  The young spend most of their time in the nest located in a cave in the warm enclosure of the House of Birds, a special area within the older part of the zoo. In a month, however, the chicks will learn to swim and will be seen more often accompanying their parents outside.

For the time being, they are covered with down, which protects them from the cold. In a month, the chicks will grow feathers with a different colour pattern from that of adult Humboldt penguins, which have black heads with a white ring, black backs and a wide black band on their white belly. The base of the bill is pink. The birds stand 70 cm tall and weigh five kilograms, consume mostly Baltic herring, and can live for over 30 years in captivity.

The chicks will not take food from keepers for another half a year, so they are being fed by their parents.

“It’s an uphill battle to teach the chicks to feed themselves. Zoologists have a long way to go before young penguins start taking food from their hands. For now the chicks are cared for by their parents. Interestingly, both males and females are known to feed and educate their young and to brood eggs. Penguins are one of the most caring parents in the animal world,” said Svetlana Akulova, general director of the Moscow Zoo.

After the weather got cold in the Russian capital, the Humboldt penguins moved to the warmer room in the House of Birds pavilion. For a month they brooded, and four chicks had hatched by 5 January. They are not the first Humboldt penguins to hatch at the zoo. The colony of this Red Data List bird now has 20 members.

Humboldt penguins live on the western rocky shores of South America and neighbouring isles, cooled by the Peru Current. They are monogamous by nature, with the global population standing at 12,000 pairs.

The Moscow Zoo first welcomed these birds over 20 years ago. The enclosure has a special HVAC system to accommodate their preference for cold water and warm air.

Last year as well, the Moscow colony grew in number with six birds born there.

In late 2017, six Gentoo penguins were brought to the Moscow Zoo from Germany as part of a European programme to preserve the species in captivity. The new birds can be seen not far from their Humboldt relatives – by the entrance to the House of Birds pavilion.


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