Skip to main content

Newly hatched Humboldt penguin chicks—a symbol of hope for World Penguin Day!

Posted by Gigi Allianic, Communications
Photos: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo

These Humboldt Penguin chicks hatched on March 1 and March 17 to two different sets of parents.

World Penguin Day is today, April 25, a special day to celebrate all 18 species of penguins on the planet and the recent hatching of two Humboldt penguins at Woodland Park Zoo. Two chicks, both females, hatched March 1 and March 17 to two different sets of parents. Incubation for penguins takes 39 to 41 days, with both parents sharing incubation duties in the nest and day-to-day care for their chicks.

The parents of the oldest chick are mother Merlin and father Groucho. This is Merlin’s first chick while Groucho has had several offspring with his previous mate, now deceased. The parents of the second chick are mother Rosalita and father Leonardo; this prolific pair has had 13 chicks together since 2014. Most penguins mate for life.

Penguin keeper, Celine holds one of the young chicks.

The chicks are off exhibit in nesting burrows where they are under the care of their parents. To ensure they are achieving growth milestones, staff routinely weigh the chicks as they develop with minimal disturbance to the parents. The chicks will join the colony in the outdoor habitat sometime in early summer.

Before new chicks reach fledging age and go outdoors in the habitat, they are removed from the nest so penguin keepers can condition the birds to approach them for hand feeding and other animal care activities. The chicks are also given round-the-clock access to a shallow pool where they can swim in a more controlled and less crowded environment.

Woodland Park Zoo has one of the most successful Humboldt penguin breeding programs in North America. The new hatchlings bring the total number of successful hatchings to 90 since the zoo’s first breeding season in 2010, a year after the new penguin habitat opened. The zoo’s colony currently consists of 44 penguins, including the new chicks.

“We’re pleased to report that the two growing chicks continue to thrive and are experiencing great weight gains under the excellent care of their parents,” said Shawn Pedersen, an animal curator at Woodland Park Zoo. “We hope our new chicks and charismatic colony will inspire people to learn about penguins and how to keep oceans safe to help ensure Humboldt penguins survive into the future.”

A small bowl lined with a soft cloth makes for a cozy "resting spot" while animal care staff check the chick's weight.

Both sets of parents were paired under a breeding recommendation made by the Humboldt Penguin Species Survival Plan, a cooperative, breeding program across accredited zoos to help ensure a healthy, self-sustaining population of penguins.

To learn more about penguins, starting May 1, check out the zoo’s penguin snack time 10:30 a.m. Saturdays and Sundays, and live trout feeding 11:00 a.m. Fridays (free with zoo admission).

Woodland Park Zoo has one of the most successful Humboldt penguin breeding programs in North America

  Not from a land of ice, but from a desert by the sea
  • People do not usually think of penguins as a desert-dwelling species. However, unlike their ice and snow-dwelling Antarctic cousins, Humboldt penguins inhabit hot, dry coastlines in Peru and Chile.
  • They live on rocky mainland shores, especially near cliffs, or on coastal islands.
  • Humboldt penguins have a body made to swim. Using their strong wings, they “fly” underwater, usually just below the surface, at speeds of up to 20 miles per hour. They steer with their feet and tail.

Saving Humboldt penguins
  • A vulnerable species, approximately 23,800 Humboldt penguins survive in their natural range.
  • Woodland Park Zoo is committed to conserving Humboldt penguins by supporting the Center for Conservation of the Humboldt Penguin in Punta San Juan, Peru; breeding the birds through the Species Survival Plan; and encouraging visitors to choose sustainable seafood options as directed by Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program. Punta San Juan is home to 5,000 Humboldt penguins, the largest colony in Peru.
  • Show love and support for the new chicks with a digital ZooParent adoption! The ZooParent program supports the zoo’s animal care, education, and wildlife conservation in the Pacific Northwest and around the world.