What’s Black & Black and Waddles?

February 9, 2016

The Penguin Post has learned that an all black penguin was spotted by wildlife watchers at Fortuna Bay on South Georgia, about 860 miles off the Falklands in the Atlantic.

After being shown the pictures by National Geographic magazine, Dr Allan Baker of the University of Toronto described them as ‘astonishing’.  ‘I’ve never ever seen that before,’ he said. ‘It’s a one in a zillion kind of mutation somewhere. The animal has lost control of its pigmentation patterns. Presumably it’s some kind of mutation.’

The photograph was taken by Andrew Evans, one of those who spotted the penguin among several thousand of its normal-colored counterparts. Observing this black penguin waddle across South Georgia’s black sand beach revealed no different behavior than that of his fellow penguins,’ he wrote on a National Geographic blog

‘In fact, he seemed to mix well. Regarding feeding and mating behavior there is no real way to tell, but I do know that we were all fascinated by his presence and wished him the best for the coming winter season.’ Because black penguins are particularly rare there has been very little research into them.

It is estimated that about one in every 250,000 penguins shows evidence of the condition – but few are as completely black as the penguin pictured here.

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I’m Dreaming Of A White Penguin

February 6, 2016

Penguins are one of the more popular and easily recognizable members of the animal kingdom. They’ve been studied and observed so much that you probably think you’ve seen it all when it comes to our adorable, flightless friends. Well, Penguin Post readers, guess again.

When a team of scientists working for National Geographic were exploring the Lindbald region of northern Antarctica, they came across a remarkably a very rare penguin specimen.  An Albino chinstrap penguin.   02-mutant-blonde-penguin.jpg

The Curious Case Of New Zealand’s Little Blue Penguins

February 3, 2016

The curious case of Little Blue Penguin in New Zealand has baffled scientist for years, as these waddling Australian invaders have long managed to blend in with the native New Zealand little blue penguins and now has just taken another mysterious twist.

Researchers recently revealed an Otago, NZ population of the world’s smallest — and possibly cutest — penguin species actually hailed from across the Tasman Sea and have now confirmed the immigrants arrived from Australia as recently as the past few hundred years.

It’s the latest instance in which DNA analysis has dramatically changed what we know about many of New Zealand’s supposedly native species.

Following startling findings in December that, for the first time, described two distinct species of little blue penguin in New Zealand, a paper published today in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences finds the newcomers probably arrived here between 1500 and 1900.

This up-ended previous theories that the Australians had been here for thousands of years.

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As part of her PhD research at Otago University, Dr Stefanie Grosser analysed ancient DNA from the remains of more than 100 little penguins, including bones dating back to pre-human times and specimens from archaeological deposits and museums.

“Amazingly, all of the bones older than 400 years belong to the native New Zealand species,” she said.

Dr Grosser said the arrival apparently followed the decline of the native penguin, which early human settlers and introduced predators hunted.

The Australian species were set apart by a few subtle differences in their color, body and cranium size.

Other researchers had previously shown that calls differed between Australian and New Zealand little penguins and females preferred the calls of males of their own species.

“You could say the Aussies like hearing ‘feesh’, while ‘fush’ sounds better to Kiwi ears,” Dr Grosser joked at the time of the December findings.

But how they got here remains a mystery — and one we might never solve.

“It’s one of those unlikely events that they happened to rock up on the Otago coastline and got a foothold,” said study leader Professor Jon Waters, of Otago University’s Department of Zoology.

“You could make up a story that maybe an Australian ship picked up 10 and brought them over, but I’d find that really hard to believe.”

The Australian sub-population appears confined to Otago. DNA analysis from other colonies, such as Wellington, Kaikoura and Banks Peninsula, turned up only the New Zealand lineage.

“It’s possible we might find another colony of Aussies somewhere like Fiordland, we don’t know.”

Professor Waters believed the findings should bring about a different approach to the species’ conservation.

“We have to think about them as being not one thing, but two, and manage them separately — so there might be a real paradigm shift.”

The native penguin, which on average stands at just 25cm and weighs 1kg, is considered in decline in New Zealand. Dogs pose their greatest threat.

The research, supported by the Marsden Fund and the now-closed Allan Wilson Centre, also provides the latest example of penguins winding up on foreign shores far from home.

Little blue penguins have been found as far as Patagonia in South America.

Other famous penguin stories have included the Antarctic emperor penguin Happy Feet, which captured Kiwi hearts after it arrived in Kapiti in 2011, and Katrina, a Fiordland penguin that swam 3000km to Mt Gambier, South Australia, in 2013.

It’s Penguin (Groundhog) Day!

February 2, 2016

Who you gonna believe a groundhog or the winter weather expert Penguin?  So welcome to Penguin (Groundhog) Day!  Since we all know that pretty much every day is Penguin Day, it just couldn’t be called “Penguin Day”, so as a reference to this new twist (waddle) to this annual prediction of early or late spring, Penguin (Groundhog) Day it is.   So if you really want to know when this Winter will be over, this morning a real penguin waddled out of his enclosure to forecast more winter or early spring on Galveston Island at Moody Gardens.  In groundhog fashion, this Aquarium Pyramid penguin saw his shadow this morning and made his prediction. The penguin then communicated with Greg Whittaker, Moody Gardens animal husbandry manager, who  translated the “Penguish” declaration into the human language.  To the delight of penguins everywhere. More Winter it is!

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Yes, he saw his shadow!

Walk Like A Penguin

January 28, 2016

We all know that walking on icy streets and sidewalks during the winter is treacherous. Wrist fractures, hip fractures, and strains and sprains are more common than ever during the winter. If you want some good strategies for preventing falls on the ice, walk like a penguin.

Keep your arms apart, your feet spread slightly, and take short, even shuffling steps. Place your foot flat, rather than hitting with the heel. Keep your center of gravity directly over your feet. You may look like a penguin, but how many penguins fall on the ice?

You are more likely to fall while getting in or out of your car, or coming inside and stepping on tile with wet shoes. Any outdoor slopes, however slight, increase fall risks.

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Once you’ve got the penguin shuffle down, here are important about when falls occur and how to prevent them.

  • Hold onto the car with two or three point contact until both feet are securely planted. Leave hand-carry items in the car until you are ready to shut the door. Avoid using your elbow to shut the door because it might be enough to throw you off balance. Set hand-carry items down first, get steady and then shut the door gently.
  • Avoid carrying heavy items over ice and snow. Take time to get a cart.
  • Carry purses and briefcases low and by your side. Keep your hands out of your pockets for better balance; it also provides a chance to either recover from a slip or brace for the impact.
  • Do not use a cell phone while walking on icy surfaces. Doing so raises and shifts the center of gravity and reduces focus. Stop in a safe location first before making a call.
  • Wear shoes with good traction, or better yet, don Microspikes or some other traction device. Footwear should fit properly, (not loose) and have low heels.
  • If you use a cane, consider getting a spike for the tip of your cane, so the cane does not slip, causing you to lose your footing.
  • Be sure to wipe shoes thoroughly when entering buildings with tile floors. Simply walking over carpet won’t dry shoes off immediately, especially near entrances where the carpet is wet or damp from outdoor traffic.

Pay attention, take your time and use traction enhancing devices to stay safe this winter. And remember, in icy conditions, penguins rule!

Penguins and Blizzards

January 22, 2016

Be more like a penguin is how the folks in D.C. can make it through Blizzard Jonas in style.  Extreme blizzards with winds over 50 mph and temperatures well below 0 degrees are a common occurrences in Antarctica. So to avoid the strong, cold winds and snow Emperor Penguins will lie of their stomachs facing into the wind to lesson exposure, or in cases of extreme cold they will gather together tightly in large groups to keep warm in what’s know as the Penguin Huddle.

 

A Penguin Named For David Bowie

January 11, 2016

The Penguin Post has learned that recently the Cincinnati Zoo welcomed its first baby penguin birth of the year and has named the little waddler after David Bowie.

After taking name suggestions through Facebook and Twitter, the penguin keepers decided to name the chick Bowie, after the legendary rocker on his birthday on Friday.   The newborn chick  which is a Little Blue (Fairy) penguin, was born on Friday. Even though it was born on both David Bowie’s and Elvis Presley’s birthday, they went with the glam rock icon since there’s already a penguin named “The King.” What makes the naming of this penguin chick more appropriate is that the rock legend David Bowie passed away today, a mere three days after the naming.

Our Bowie couldn’t have come at a better time. “The Zoo celebrates Penguin Days during January and February, so it’s fitting that a penguin chick would be the first little one to arrive in 2016,”  said Cincinnati Zoo Director Thane Maynard.

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A not very glam Little Penguin David Bowie

An Eyewitness to Chilly’s Escape

November 23, 2015

Here’s a first hand account of the adventures and mis-adventures of the fugitive Chilly Willy from Mark Osler, a former Detroit resident who in 1990 was witness the Chilly’s escape and subsequent adventures.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. This is my favorite holiday– I love the idea of it, and the fact that it is a holiday geared more to reflection and humility than patriotism or commerce.

But, like many other good things, there is a dark side. Those of us from Detroit know to keep a lookout for a Thanksgiving menace that appears when least expected– Chilly Willy the Penguin.

In 1990, a frozen dessert company entered a 40-foot inflatable penguin in the Detroit Thanksgiving Day Parade down Woodward Avenue. Given the variety of social ills (street violence, poverty, a rotting infrastructure) faced by Detroit back then, few in attendance thought that a greater threat might be posed by the giant gaseous penguin. They were wrong.

Midway through the parade, Chilly Willy made a break for it. I remember this– I was there. He broke free of his handlers and charged into the sky, taunting those below. Legend has it that several bystanders stopped shooting at one another and fired at the fleeing bird to no avail. The irony was overwhelming; After decades of tragedy, now the city was under threat by a giant flightless bird that had somehow taken to the air. Now he headed for the home of the singer-songwriter who defined irony for so many of us: the Great White North’s own Alannis (“Isn’t It Ironic?”) Morrisette.

So, like other Northern-border fugitives, Chilly Willy headed to Canada. Many watched as he headed down the Detroit River and across Lake St. Clair toward freedom in a nation famous for its generous proportions of ice and snow. He got as far as Walpole Island, just into Canada, before he was finally apprehended.

Chilly Willy’s reign of terror was not complete, though. In a Napolean-like comeback, some months later he was trusted with the duties of appearing at a car dealership for promotional purposes. Not missing an opportunity, he lashed out with violence. It was not random violence, however– his target was an official of the very parade from which Willy had escaped! CW threw his terrified victim from the roof of the dealership, breaking her arm and leg, and teaching a valuable lesson on the hazards of trying to tie down a restless spirit that cannot be contained.

They say that Chilly Willy has been safely deflated and stored in a secure facility. Believe that if you want… I’m watching my back.

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The new Chilly Willy balloon in a recent parade.

Penguins Can Fly!

November 23, 2015

I love Chilly Willy and the Thanksgiving Day Parade and back in 1990, these two combined to make what for me is the best Thanksgiving Parade story ever. What many people don’t realize is the Detroit Thanksgiving Day parade is the 2nd oldest and 2nd largest in the nation.   Over the years there’s been plenty of parade balloon mishaps in NY and Detroit, but for me the one that tops them all is simply known in Detroit as the “1990 escapee”.  25 years ago on a windy Thanksgiving morning the 40 foot Chilly Willy balloon came loose and  broke free from his moorings, floating away to the delight of a cheering crowd that chanted “Fly Chilly Fly” as he drifted toward Canada and eventually out of sight.  The 40 foot tall, wayward  penguin was soon spotted by startled commercial aircraft pilots at an altitude of about 5000 feet, which must have been quite a sight.  Chilly was found the next afternoon by the Coast Guard in the water (where penguins like to go) near Walpole Island in Lake St. Clair, Canada some 25 miles from home!

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Although he didn’t really look like the classic Chilly Willy here is Chilly right before he made a break for it in 1990.

 

The Great Almost Penguin Escape

November 14, 2015

The Penguin Post has learned about the video shared by the Odense Zoo in Denmark of an ill fated attempted penguin escape that was foiled by the flightless birds’ own wet footprints on the concrete.

The video posted to YouTube by the Odense Zoo features a zookeeper holding a camera while following the wet footprints from the penguin enclosure down a corridor meant for zoo staff.

The zookeeper soon catches up to the five penguins as they make a mad dash for freedom.

The zoo compared the antics of the birds to those of their animated counterparts in the “Madagascar” series of films. The slippery escape artists come to a dead end in the corridor and turn around to run back toward their enclosure.


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