Do you recognize this penguin? Why it’s the one and only Cassie (or as you may know her by her other alias – Casanova). If she looks a tad different than the last time you saw her, it’s for good reason; because – big news – she just completed her first official molt!
A molt occurs when a bird’s feathers are pushed out and replaced by new ones, a process that occurs every year. Unlike other bird species that shed a few feathers during the year, African Penguins actually undergo what is called a ‘catastrophic molt’, a 20 day period during which time each penguin loses all of its feathers at one time.
And for 15-month old Cassie, this first molt means she says goodbye to her gray and white juvenile plumage, and hello to her new set of feathers.
At an about 95% complete molt, Cassie still has a couple days until her feathers are totally in, but as you can see – with her new black and white colors, she officially looks like an adult penguin.
Like fingerprints on humans or stripes on a zebra, African penguin chest patterns – including the lines and spots – are unique to each individual penguin.
Want to spot Cassie during your visit? Ask a biologist to point her out at Penguin Island!