Baby Boom Continues! First-Ever Little Blue Penguin Chick Hatched

Hatchling announced just one week prior to 1st anniversary of
little blue colony arrival to Aquarium

Adventure Aquarium officially announced the hatching of its first-ever little blue penguin chick, just days before the one year anniversary of the opening of Little Blue Beach and the arrival of the little blue penguin colony.  The chick hatched inside a nesting box to first-time parents, Sheila and Goose, on the Little Blue Beach exhibit on December 3, 2016 under the watchful eye of Aquarium staff.

“The birth of our first little blue chick is not only a historic event for Adventure Aquarium but it is also extremely exciting for our team and the colony,” said Michele Pagel, Curator of Birds and Mammals at Adventure Aquarium.  “We were also fortunate to have very attentive parents for this little blue.  Mom and dad have been amazing from day one.” 

Much like newborn human babies, when penguin chicks first hatch, they are very dependent on their parents.  The penguin’s eyes are closed, and their bodies are developing muscles that will eventually allow them to hold their head up and walk (or waddle). A major difference between penguin and human babies is that penguin growth happens very quickly.  Little blue penguins have an even more accelerated growth rate.  In just over a month, the hatchling has grown from just 35 grams (1.23 ounces) to 983 grams (2 pounds, 3 ounces), already weighing the same as other adults in the little blue colony.

Just like the adult birds, the chick eats about 25 to 30 small whole fish each day, including silversides, smelt, anchovies, trout and capelin. The chick’s care was transferred from its parents to AAQ keepers on Wednesday, December 21, 2016 at which point it was able to eat small but whole fish and was more physically developed and mobile.

“Young penguins need to learn how to eat from human hands, associate fish with the feed bucket and learn to be social with the keepers, which are all important steps to becoming part of the little blue colony,” said Pagel. “This little blue, who is extremely laid back and relaxed, quickly took to her keepers as her new caregivers, eating from them the very first day.  This was really the best case scenario when transitioning to our care.”

The chick’s gender was determined during early gender tests using DNA collected from inside the egg shell which resulted in female.  A blood test will be conducted to confirm these results when she is older. She will remain behind the scenes to allow her time to develop her waterproof plumage before eventually being reintroduced to the colony in the Little Blue Beach exhibit.   

Guests will have the opportunity to help name the new little blue chick during an online vote to be held later this month.  Details will be shared via the Aquarium’s social media accounts.  Guests and visitors are encouraged to follow the Aquarium’s accounts to stay up-to-date on animal birth announcements as well as events and happenings.

With the addition of the female hatchling, the little blue colony currently consists of three females and six males, ranging in age from one month to 4 years of age.  The original colony members were born at the Taronga Zoo in Sydney, Australia and temporarily resided at the Bronx Zoo before travelling to their permanent home of Adventure Aquarium in late December, 2015.

The Aquarium participates in the Association of Zoos and Aquarium’s (AZA’s) little blue penguin Species Survival Plan (SSP), a program that encourages zoos and aquariums to work in concert to help ensure the survival of little blue penguins through a scientifically-controlled breeding program.

NOTE TO THE EDITOR

Media interested in covering the little blue chick are invited on-site to Adventure Aquarium for a special behind the scenes filming on Monday, January 9 at 10:30 a.m.  Please email dsabec@adventureaquarium.com to confirm.

Downloadable images of the little blue chick are available here. Photo Credit: Adventure Aquarium.