Penguin keeper Chris Felts sheds light on those ‘other kinds of eggs’

By: Chris Felts

Chris is a biologist on the Birds & Mammals team at Adventure Aquarium, and works directly with our African penguins. His study on penguin egg data was recently published in the “Penguin Conservation – Penguin Taxon Advisory Group Newsletter.”

Happy Easter everyone! We here at Adventure Aquarium appreciate chocolate Easter eggs just as much as anybody (and caramel eggs and peanut butter eggs and malted milk balls…) but being penguin biologists we’ve also got a big interest in penguin eggs and little baby chicks. Thankfully we don’t have to wait for the Easter Bunny to deliver because we’ve got an entire colony of African Penguins that lay eggs all year round!

As a facility that participates in the African Penguin SSP (that’s Species Survival Plan), we’re very curious about when and how often our penguins lay eggs, as well as the size of the eggs that are produced. So far we’ve found that our colony lays eggs that weigh about 90 grams or so, or a little over 3 ounces.

Chris shows off a sample penguin egg

Chris shows off a sample penguin egg

Usually our penguins will lay two eggs in a set, the second 3 or 4 days after the first. As for how often our penguins lay, we’ve found that it varies pretty wildly for each bird. Miss Minnie (#5) likes spring and early winter and might lay 3 different sets of eggs in a single year! Old lady Sheridan (#6) on the other hand, seems to lay whenever she wants but not all that often. As you can tell, each of our penguins is very unique and it took a lot of work to determine what their individual laying patterns were. Thankfully, now that we’ve completed our investigations, we can use this information to help our colony raise as many penguin chicks as possible, in ways you might not expect.

egg hatching

For example, sometimes a penguin pair may be a little inexperienced on how to properly care for their egg or chick and that’s where it’s our job to help them out. Since we know when our other penguins are most likely to want to raise eggs, sometimes we’ll let a more experienced pair of penguins take care of eggs laid by a pair that’s not really certain what to do. A short 42 days later and those adoptive parents will be raising a newborn chick, adorably cute and hungry for fish!

Day old Adventure Aquarium chick

Day old Adventure Aquarium chick Saba, with unhatched Cornelius in the background

So rest assured that the penguin biologists of Adventure Aquarium and the African Penguins in our care remain ever vigilant and on the lookout for new penguin eggs, just as you and yours will be on the hunt for Easter eggs this holiday.

Happy Easter! Enjoy these photos and video of our penguins enjoying some particularly timely enrichment – exploring and “hunting” for plastic Easter eggs on Penguin Island:

penguin3

penguin6

penguin4

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And the adorable video of the hunt, below:

 

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