Two king penguin chicks who hatched in March made their debut in the Suzanne and Walter Scott Aquarium.
The first chick hatched on March 14 and currently weighs 26 pounds. The second hatched on March 16 and weighs 32 pounds. Both of their genders are unknown at this time.
Visitors will notice that the chicks are in a “chick pen” in the Antarctic penguin habitat. The chicks will remain here until they molt their non-waterproof down feathers and gain their juvenile plumage. This period also gives the chicks an opportunity to get acclimated to the habitat and the other penguins.
Each of the chicks were raised by adult males, which is not typical for this species. Generally, an adult female shares the responsibility of caring for the offspring. The Zoo’s Aquarium Birds staff only intervened during select feeding times to get the chicks used to accepting food by hand. All of the penguins are fed by the keepers on exhibit daily at 10:30 a.m. and 3 p.m.
King penguin breeding season begins in October. In their habitat, computerized lighting changes cue the change in seasons. The exhibit is on a southern light cycle to mimic a penguin’s natural habitat, which means the lighting is brighter during Omaha’s winter months.
Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium currently has a population of 24 king penguins: 13 males, nine females and the chicks. As of June 2018, the North American population of king penguins was 283 individuals in 15 institutions. This species is managed as a Green Species Survival Plan through the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.
King penguins are currently listed as least concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List. Unsustainable fishing operations, changes in climate and resulting food availability threaten penguins in the wild. Learn more about well-managed seafood selections that are not harmful to habitats and wildlife through the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch® program at https://www.seafoodwatch.org/.