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Springtime penguin chicks and one lucky egg!

Posted by: Kirsten Pisto, Communications

A fuzzy Humboldt penguin chick stretches out during a check-up with keepers. Photo by Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.

What is more adorable than a penguin chick check-up? It’s tough to think of anything more wonderful to celebrate springtime than a couple of fuzzy, gray additions to our Humboldt penguin colony, especially the story behind one of these very lucky chicks!

Up close with a penguin chick. Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.
Two little penguin chicks received their first weigh-in and visual health assessment yesterday behind the scenes at our award-winning Humboldt penguin exhibit. Keepers John and Celine carefully weighed and checked each penguin chick, the first two of this year’s penguin breeding season. These desert penguin chicks weighed in yesterday at 9 oz. and 11 oz.

Penguin chick on the scale! Photo by Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.

Here you can see a penguin egg being candled. Keepers use a special light to look through the shell to check on the growth of the chick. Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

The first chick hatched on April 3 to 4-year-old mother Sardinia and 9-year-old father Groucho. While the first egg was just hatching, a young visitor alerted the keeper that he could see a second egg on a cliff in the exhibit! The keeper, Celine, immediately followed the boy’s instructions and scooped up the egg. The egg was relocated under a pair of foster parents where it proceeded to hatch a couple of days later on April 5!

Penguin keeper, an excited Celine Pardo, holds one of the new penguin chicks. Photo by Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo
Celine wanted to personally thank the little hero (described as 7 or 8 years old with blonde, curly hair, wearing a white t-shirt, and who was extremely polite) for spotting the precarious egg but he was gone by the time she retrieved it and had returned to the exhibit. “We are so grateful to this little boy for helping us save this precious bird. If another penguin stumbled upon it or a crow or seagull scooped it up, it may have been a goner,” said Pardo. “We’d like to find him and extend an invitation to go behind the scenes to meet the chick and help name it. The story of this chick shows how visitors of all ages can help support the care of animals at the zoo and, in this case, help save an endangered bird.”

We’re now asking for everyone’s help to find the little boy who spotted the egg. We’d love to find him to properly thank him for his keen observation and help in rescuing the lucky egg. If anyone knows this mystery boy, please contact the zoo by emailing:

Keepers, Celine Pardo and John Samaras, do a visual check of a very wiggly new penguin chick! Photo by Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.
Both chicks will now spend time nesting in their cozy burrows. The chicks hang out with their parents (and foster parents), who take great care of them, feeding, cleaning and keeping them warm. Keepers try to minimize staff intervention, but they do measure weight gain to make sure the tiny penguins are getting enough to eat.

Keeper John Samaras holds one of the new penguin chicks. Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

Before the new chicks reach fledging age and go outdoors on exhibit, they will be removed from the nest so keepers can condition the birds to approach staff for feeding and other animal care activities. The growing chicks will have round-the-clock access to a shallow pool where they can practice their swimming, flying and twirling in a less crowded environment. Humboldt penguins have a body made to swim. They use their strong wings to literally “fly” underwater, usually just below the surface. The penguins use their feet and tail to steer at speeds of up to 20 miles per hour!

Penguins dive and fly through our award winning exhibit. Photo by Ryan Hawk/ Woodland Park Zoo.

Four additional eggs are expected to hatch between April 16 and 26. You’ll be able to visit these chicks when they join the larger colony of penguins in the outdoor exhibit sometime by mid-summer!

Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

Last year, as part of Woodland Park Zoo’s continuing effort in the conservation of Humboldt penguins, keeper John Samaras had the opportunity to travel to Punta San Juan in Peru and take part in an annual health assessment of the wild population conducted by zoo professionals and Peruvian biologists. Unlike their ice and snow-dwelling Antarctic cousins, Humboldt penguins inhabit hot, dry coastlines. Woodland Park Zoo’s penguin exhibit, which opened in May 2009, mimics the coast of Punta San Juan, a barren desert peninsula that juts out into the South Pacific in southern Peru. You can read more about these endangered birds and John’s adventures in Peru here.

Young visitors get a close-up welcome from one of our curious penguins. Photo by Mat Hayward/Woodland Park Zoo.


Anonymous said…
Good eye, little man! Sweet story. I hope you find our hero!
Anonymous said…
Cute, cute, cute.
Anonymous said…
I hope you'll let us know when you find the boy who helped save the chick. Great story!
Anonymous said…
Fantastic! I read this to my 7-year-old daughter in hopes of piquing her curiosity and increase her willingness to go to the zoo (my absolute favorite place but not hers, yet!)