More Penguins In Pittsburgh

Move over Pittsburgh Penguins players – even with the playoffs just around the corner there are some new penguins snatching some attention in Pittsburgh. The National Aviary in Pittsburgh recently welcomed two African penguin chicks that were the first to hatch at the aviary in late February.  The aviary held a celebration called the “Hatch Party” for the chicks last Friday where the chicks made their first public appearance and guests were able to participate in different penguin-friendly activities. The chicks are the offspring of Sidney and Bette, two of the 12 penguins that live in the aviary’s Penguin Point exhibit. Tribby, who was named after Penguin Point exhibit sponsor Trib Total Media, hatched Feb. 26. The other chick, whose name is being auctioned to the public, hatched Feb. 29. Guests who came to celebrate the birth of the penguins at the Hatch Party were able to meet the two chicks and learn different facts about the species of the bird, as well as participate in games and other activities. Among those activities was a live penguin painting done by one of the 12 fully-grown penguins. Attendees were also able to bid on another painting done by the penguins and a signed Sidney Crosby jersey. During the Hatch Party, many of the aviary personnel walked around and shared facts about the species. Steve Sarro, director of Animal Collections at the National Aviary, was in attendance and informed the guests about the penguins and new chicks. Sarro explained that the chicks were raised by their mother and father for about three weeks and are now being hand-raised by the expert penguin trainers on staff until the end of the summer. “We want the chicks to understand that we are caretakers and food givers to them, and that they should not be scared of us,” Sarro said at the Hatch Party on Friday. Sarro said that at birth the chicks weighed a little below 2 ounces and now weigh about 3.5 to 4 pounds. Once fully grown, the chicks will weigh about 6 to 8 pounds. Although they will grow rapidly to the adult stage, the chicks will still find some difficulty once they join the rest of the penguin colony in the exhibit, but in the meantime they are being kept company by some penguin chick stuffed animals from Penguin Place. “The chicks will be the low man on the totem pole for a while,” Sarro said. “They will learn their place in the hierarchy real quick.” Another aviary employee who enlightened guests was Maria Fusco, a senior biology major at Point Park University.Fusco is an intern at the National Aviary and has interned there since the fall semester. Fusco said the aviary has had an air of excitement around it since the chicks hatched. She said there was no official announcement to the employees about the chicks hatching, but word quickly spread to everyone, and the excitement began. Fusco hopes that the word will spread as quickly to the public and that there will be an increase in attendance to come see the chicks. “Now is a really great time to come to the aviary,” Fusco said at the Hatch Party on Friday. “It’s a unique opportunity to see birds, like the new penguin chicks, that aren’t even native to this country … you don’t have to travel across the world to see them.” The aviary staff may have been excited to see the chicks, but the excitement was not limited to them. One of the guests, Chelsea Prior, 27, was a first-time guest to the National Aviary but has always been a penguin lover. “I have always been interested in the National Aviary,” Prior said at the Hatch Party on Friday. “I always wanted to come, and this event gave me a chance to see when it’s less crowded than usual.” Prior was enthusiastic about seeing the chicks and other birds for the first time and expects to come back to visit the aviary often. “I totally want to come more to watch the penguin chicks grow,” Prior said. “I am a part of Big Brothers, Big Sisters, and I plan on bringing my sister to see them.” Another guest, Kira Walters, 30, who came with Prior to the event also wants to watch the penguins as they continue to take steps in maturing from their newborn stage. “I think it’s interesting that they act like little human babies with how clumsy and wobbly they are,” Walters said at the Hatch Party on Friday. The public can now see the new African penguin chicks daily at the National Aviary. For more information, visit http://www.aviary.org/.

Penguin Chick (right) with penguin plush from yours truly.

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