Posts Tagged ‘Gentoo Penguin’

Penguins Melt Your Hearts While Their Poop Melts The Ice

May 2, 2015

The Penguin Post has learned that Gentoo penguins have given the term nesting a whole new meaning.  The penguins poop on their frozen landscape in the Antarctic to melt it, creating the ideal location to rear their young when the time comes, new video footage suggests.42-67137516.jpg__800x600_q85_crop

Though most humans wouldn’t consider poop an appropriate decoration for a child’s nursery (although it is certainly a common element in them), poop seems to play a key role in penguins’ breeding behavior. This poop “landscaping” is probably unintentional: The penguins most likely aren’t considering the feng shui of their feces and deliberately pooping to make room for their chicks’ nurseries, researchers said.

Gentoo penguin pooping in the snowThe new insight came from thousands of hours of video taken by researchers from the University of Oxford in England, along with the Australian Antarctic Division. The researchers spent a year videotaping the behavior of a colony of Gentoo penguins on Cuverville Island, off the Antarctic Peninsula. The team also used snow gauges to measure how fast snow melted as the tuxedo-clad birds came and went. [See Video of the Penguin’s Poop Landscaping]

The frosty region is usually blanketed by snow and ice, but that changed at certain times of the year. The birds aggregated in large groups, leaving huge piles of guano, or poop. The dark color of the poop allowed the light from the weak Antarctic sun to be more quickly absorbed. That, in turn, fueled the melting of the ice and left a lot of bare rocky shelters — perfect nesting grounds for rearing their adorable penguin chicks.

Gentoo penguins, or Pygoscelis papua, are among the rarest of the Antarctic birds, with fewer than 300,000 breeding pairs on the icy continent, according to the British Antarctic Survey. The Gentoo’s, like many other penguins, are monogamous, usually mating with the same partner year after year. Each female penguin lays just two eggs for the season, so it’s no surprise that they aggressively protect their eggs, according to the British Antarctic Survey. The penguins tend to place their eggs on hilltops and open beaches, collecting bits of pebbles and other objects from their surroundings for their nests.

Openings At The U.K. Penguin Post Office

February 27, 2015

The Penguin Post has learned that there are plenty of people who want to spend five months in the bitter cold, sleeping little, be virtually isolated from the world, won’t be able to shower for up to a month and live in close proximity to three people and 2,000 penguins for five months, and work for the post office.

bransfield-house1 In the two weeks since February 16th posting,  over 1,500 people have applied for only four positions with the Royal Mail—that’s 375 applicants per spot—to be an assistant at the southernmost post office in the world in Port Lockroy, Antarctica.  In 2014, the total number of applicants for the same positions was a whopping 82. Inquiries skyrocketed after a documentary about the outpost aired on the BBC and PBS, according to the organization that runs it, the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust.

Image296In addition to the cold and isolated conditions, the job is a bit unique for a postal employee. The assistants have to run the base’s museum and shop, monitor the 2,000 Gentoo penguins that hang around, assist the 18,000 visitors to the island and handle the 70,000 letters that tourists post for that cherished Antarctica postmark.


New Penguin Chicks At Omaha Zoo

February 26, 2015

The Penguin Post has learned that Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium has a trio of brand new penguin chicks that are going on display today.  The chicks — two Rockhoppers and one Gentoo — are being set up in a penguin playpen in the zoo’s Antarctic Penguin display. The playpen gives the chicks a chance to safely get used to the other penguins in the exhibit, while allowing their feathers to grow in. They’ll stay in the playpen for a few weeks.

Gentoo on the left, Rockhoppers on the right.

Gentoo on the left, Rockhoppers on the right.

The Rockhopper chicks (pictured right), which hatched between Dec. 11 and Dec. 15, weigh about 4 pounds, and the Gentoo penguin (pictured left) weighs about 12 pounds. In the wild, Rockhopper penguins reside in the South Atlantic, Indian and Pacific oceans. Gentoo penguins can be found on Sub-Antarctic islands with the main colonies on the Falkland/Malvinas Islands, South Georgia and Kerguelen Islands. Rockhoppers are currently listed as vulnerable and Gentoos are near threatened, both with declining populations, on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List due to fisheries, loss of habitat and oil spills.

In addition to these chicks, Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium currently has 80 penguins on display: 22 King penguins, 32 Gentoo penguins and 26 Rockhopper penguins.

Penguin Petting Therapy

October 7, 2014

As if you needed another reason to pet a penguin the Penguin Post has learned that the Newport Aquarium near Cincinnati has a new personal penguin petting encounter may have serious health benefits. Alle Barber and Ric Urban have pretty cool jobs; they get to play with penguins. Both of them perform education and outreach for the Wave Foundation, so they get to spend a lot of time with penguins. So who better to talk to about how penguins help us heal? Ric admits that he can be having a rough day until he himself has a personal encounter with a penguin. “After thirty minutes, I feel great,” Ric said. “I am ready to go off and tackle the world again.” Alle said that a few minutes with an alligator will do the same thing. “It really does make you feel calm, and just peaceful,” she said, “It’s just this feeling that nothing else matters in the world.” In addition to that, there may some power to actually petting the animals. A recent report from the Mayo Clinic found that when scientists looked at those who were petting animals, they had surge in healing hormones that led to a feeling of peace and serenity While the effects are tough to quantify, just take a look at the penguins. Notice how you can’t help but smile?

Gentoo Penguin

Gentoo Penguin

A Baby Tennessee Tuxedo

August 5, 2014

The Penguin Post has learned that there’s a fluffy new face in the Tennessee Aquarium’s Penguins’ Rock exhibit.  Penguin lovers welcomed the new chick to the colony in June. The proud parents, “Chaos” and “Merlin,” stay busy snuggling their baby in the nest and seem to enjoy showing it off to everyone.


“Both parents have very laid back personalities, which is helpful when we need to do weight checks and clean the nest,” said senior aviculturist Amy Graves. “They’re also a great parental team. Merlin serves as protector and Chaos does a great job feeding.”

Chaos certainly keeps busy since this tiny bird has a giant appetite. Aquarium guests can have fun eavesdropping on this family. A microphone inside the exhibit picks up the chick’s vocalizations whenever it begs to be fed, which seems to be almost constantly lately. The sounds of the colony are audible throughout Penguins’ Rock. But, mom responds to the begging and appears to be keeping pace. Her baby consistently weighs in at the high end of the healthy range during veterinary exams. “Baby penguins should experience rapid growth,” said Graves. “We track each chick’s progress through frequent weigh-ins and compare the results to the ranges we know are considered healthy. Since this penguin is staying pretty pudgy, it’s clear that the parents are doing a great job with feeding.”

The Aquarium’s penguin experts hope this “big mac” sets a good example for the chicks that follow it, both in demeanor and rapid growth.

Last year aviculturists had their hands full supplementing feedings for a couple of chicks up to five times each day when sluggish weight gains indicated the parents were not delivering enough nutrition on their own.

Aviculturist Loribeth Aldrich says even though the chick is very vocal, it seems to have inherited its parent’s demeanor. “He’s pretty laid-back and easygoing,” said Aldrich. “The chick doesn’t mind being handled during exams or being photographed.”

This is quite a switch from “Pepper,” another Macaroni who was also the aquarium’s very first baby penguin hatchling in 2009. “She was a feisty bird almost from the day she hatched,” said Aldrich.

Earlier this year, Pepper and 10 other penguins that were reared at the aquarium were moved to other institutions accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. They will have the opportunity to have offspring of their own while bolstering the overall genetic diversity of the Macaroni and Gentoo population in human care. This transfer also affords the aquarium’s colony more flipper room during the breeding season.

This new Macaroni penguin is the first for the 2014 season and it’s possible that aviculturists will remain very busy this season with additional chicks.

Visitors can see the new chick inside an acrylic “playpen” on the right-hand side of the exhibit. It will remain inside this protective barrier for several more weeks before it will be allowed to roam outside the nest. “Penguins need their waterproof swim feathers before they are ready to go out on their own,” said Graves. “Right now, the chick is still dependent on mom and dad, but they seem to like that just fine.”

The chick’s gender will be determined during a blood test later this year. At that time, a Facebook contest is planned to find the perfect name for him or her.


Penguin Adaptation And Climate Change

July 7, 2014

As we at the Penguin Post have learned penguins are on the front line of climate change as an indicator species.  So, as global  temperatures rise and the ice melts, the iconic and lovable flightless birds that call Antarctica home force researchers to sit up and take notice.

A gentoo on the ice

A gentoo on the ice

Scientists who count the birds are finding that penguins are beginning to feel major impacts from the drastic changes to their habitat. But, perhaps surprisingly, the breeding populations of three brush-tailed species of penguins inhabiting the Western Antarctic Peninsula, where the temperatures are warmest, are not all falling as the ice is quickly melting. “We know two of the three penguin species in the peninsula, chinstrap and Adélie, are declining significantly in a region where, in the last 60 years, it’s warmed by 3 degrees C. (5 degrees F.) in the summer and by 5 degrees C. (9 degrees F.) in winter,” said Ron Naveen, the founder of Oceanites, a U.S. based non-profit and scientific research organization. He oversees the Antarctic Site Inventory which monitors penguin populations.

A third species, Gentoo’s, has not been losing numbers and in fact has even been expanding its range. Counting penguins in the wild is a complicated art. Naveen’s team makes repeated visits every year to the Antarctic Peninsula from November to February when egg-laying and chick creching are at their peak. Since 1994, he has conducted 1,421 visits to the peninsula and collected data from 209 sites.

Gentoo Penguin

Gentoo Penguin

Naveen and fellow penguin counter Heather Lynch of Stony Brook University say the warming climate and the consequent loss of sea ice are contributing to the decline in Adelie and chinstrap, because the two species are dependent on the sea ice. Warming temperature is only one part of the whole story, however, according to the Naveen. “There are a number of possibilities,” he said. Adelies and chinstrap nest primarily near the ice and rely on krill as their main food source. These shrimp-like vertebrates live underneath the ice, feeding on the algae that grows there. As the ice retreats, the krill in turn disappear. Other factors such as commercial overfishing and the expanding population of humpback whales, which also feed on krill, may also contribute to the loss of their main food source.

By contrast, gentoo penguins are expanding both in numbers and in geographical range, according to Naveen and Lynch’s research because they are not as dependent on the sea ice for breeding and feeding. There are an estimated 387,000 gentoo breeding pairs and their populations are moving southward along the peninsula. “Gentoos are an open water species and can move southward as the declining ice concentration makes new habitat available to them,” Lynch said.  So as far as penguins are concerned in the new world of Antarctic global warming, we have some penguins able to adapt better than others, and given the rate of change, rapid adaptation will be the key to a species thriving.

Another Ancient Penguin Claim

May 28, 2014

After reporting yesterday about Tess the world’s oldest African penguin, The Penguin Post has been informed that there is yet another elder penguin record holder out there.  A King penguin living in the U.K. named Missy, who although a half dozen years younger than Tess, is now officially the oldest living King (Queen) penguin in the world.   Yes, Missy might be a tough old bird, but that hasn’t stopped her waddling her way into the penguin record books.

Missy seen here far right leading her fellow Kings on parade.

Missy seen here far right leading her fellow Kings on parade.

Missy the penguin now claims the crown as the oldest living King penguin in the world after reaching 36 years old – a staggering 108 in human years.  The ancient King penguin arrived at the Birdland wildlife park in Gloucestershire when she was at least five years old in 1982 – and despite losing the sight in one eye she is still the leader of the colony today. Keepers had no idea that she was the world’s oldest until a zoo in Denmark mistakenly claimed the title with a Gentoo penguin two years younger than Missy.

Staff at Birdland Park and Gardens, in Bourton-on-the-Water are now planning to send her details to the Guinness World Records to prove she has smashed the record. King penguins are only expected to live up to 25 years in captivity, much more than the 15-20 years life expectancy in the wild. Missy spends most of her time with her partner of 18 years, Seth, who is thought to be 34 years old and had a starring role in the 1992 film Batman Returns.  Simon Blackwell, park manager, said: ‘The Danish zoo recently announced they believed that a Gentoo penguin there was the world’s oldest living penguin having reached the age of 34 in May.  Although, Mr. Blackwell conceded that Missy had to settle for world’s oldest King penguin title as he was not aware of Tess the African penguin from the Pueblo Zoo, who at 42 years of age currently has a firm grasp of the world’s oldest penguin title (African or otherwise).

Missy (partner Seth) who has been at Birdland Wildlife Park in the UK since 1982

Missy (partner Seth) who has been at Birdland Wildlife Park in the UK since 1982


Penguin Parade Waddles Once More

March 31, 2013

The Penguin Post has learned that the Edinburgh Zoo’s most famous residents are to resume the daily penguin parade a year after it was halted while their enclosure was renovated.

The story behind the origins of the parade are as follows. In 1951, a keeper left the door to the penguin’s enclosure open by mistake and a gentoo escaped. Followed by other birds, they went for a walkabout. The escape was so popular with visitors the penguin parade has been a part of the zoo’s daily routine ever since. In early 2012, the parade stopped when the enclosure closed for renovation. Fifty-five penguins were sent to other zoos during the work, bringing the marching to a halt.  The new enclosure, called Penguins Rock, opened on March 15 and the gentoos have been practising their marching technique for the first parade on Friday. Colin Oulton from the zoo said: “We have a mixture of both old and new birds taking part in the parade, with as many as seventeen birds participating in the practice runs. The practice runs have all gone pretty smoothly; the old pros got back into it right away and the new penguins were enthusiastic to join in. “Penguins are naturally inquisitive and they enjoy the opportunity the parade gives them each day. We don’t force any penguins to take part, or encourage them with food rewards – each penguin participates in the parade purely because it wants to.”

As well as the Gentoo and Rockhopper penguins, the zoo’s five King penguins have returned in time for Easter.They took a little longer to get home as they started to moult earlier than usual. The process can be stressful, so it was decided to keep them in England until they had finished moulting. Among them is Sir Nils Olav, the mascot of the Norwegian Royal Guard. Mr Oulton said: “It was actually Sir Nils Olav holding everybody up as he was the last to moult. As the kings have only just returned to the zoo this week it is unlikely that any of them will be getting involved in the first official parade, but it won’t be too long before they are settled and ready to participate.” The penguin parade starts at 2.15pm on Friday at their enclosure.


Young Penguin Makes A Friend

May 24, 2012

Humans love to line up in front of the glass walls at penguin zoo exhibits, staring at the antics of the black-and-white, two-legged creatures.  But what about when the tides are turned, when penguins get a chance to meet the strange humans,  observing them for the first time? The Penguin Post has learned that that moment was captured on camera by a man traveling to penguins’ home habitat, Antarctica. “I was on a tour with friends in Antarctica when we visited a penguin colony,” the visitor, Joel Oleson, explained.  “Our guide told us not to approach the penguins, but that it was okay for them to approach us.” “I laid down to seem non- threatening, and the baby penguin approached me,” said Oleson, a self-described “travel junkie” who has traveled  to over 100 countries since 2008 and blogs about his adventures at  Watch the video to see what happened next.

Penguins Romancing The Stone

April 30, 2012

As crime waves go, there’s something very fishy about a series of thefts taking place at the London Aquarium.  As the mating season begins, ‘criminal’ Gentoo penguins have been stealing pebbles from rival nests.  This is not the Penguin Posts first encounter with penguin pebble thieves and we’re sure it won’t be the last, as with a stealthy glance over their shoulders, the fiendish birds quickly waddle to their neighbors’ unguarded nests, steal a stone and run back to their own nest.  In many cases it won’t be long before the ill-gotten stones will again be stolen by another bird or even the original owner. You can blame this circular crime wave on hormones more than anything else, but it’s a crime none the less. But as the number of break-ins increase, the Gentoos have become suspicious of their fellow colony members, and no one is beyond suspicion. If they notice a rival moving in to plunder their pebbles they quickly run back to defend their nests, keeping everyone on their webbed toes. The colony of 10, which arrived at the attraction last year, are in the middle of their first mating season at the aquarium. Males declare their interest in a female by selecting and presenting a ‘love token’ in the form of a pebble to their chosen female. If it is accepted, the couple then begin collecting more pebbles to line their doughnut-shaped nest. The birds build their stone nests to elevate and protect their eggs. Smooth pebbles are ‘like gold dust’ because they are easy to pick up and comfortable to lie on, according to those who tend to the birds. Hayley Clark, aquarist at the Sea Life London Aquarium, said extra pebbles had to be put into the enclosure after burglar Vladimir has conducted daily robberies on surrounding nests. She said: ‘Some of them are a little bit more tricky than the others, they keep an eye out for the owner of the nest before stealing. A couple of them will just run straight to a nest and will be chased off straight away. ‘They just prefer a certain type of pebble. Pebbles are like gold dust to these guys. ‘The male works out where he wants his nest and that is when he starts collecting pebbles. The female will join in as well after he has given her a few pebbles to place in the nest how she wants it. ‘It is like giving your girlfriend chocolate.’ Ms Clark added that there has been ‘a few tiffs’ over pebble thefts. ‘They will run over pretty sharpish and tell them where to go,’ she said. ‘It can get a little bit aggressive but they generally back away very quickly.’ No eggs have been seen yet but breeders are hoping that a few will turn up in the next few weeks. The pilfering activities of pesky penguins were also featured in the BBC’s Frozen Planet when crews captured Adelie penguins performing a similar thefts while filming in Antarctica.

Penguins keeping an eye on their precious pebbles.