The zoo’s penguin exhibit is home to four new black-footed penguins! The three males and one female are named Ollie, Cricket, Roman, and Tapanga. They arrived earlier this summer with a breeding recommendation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.
Does that mean there’s a penguin chick on the way?
“Not yet,” states zoo keeper Sarah Cox, who cares for the penguins. “The new males are still young and it may be another year before they’re ready to breed.”
Guests can identify three younger male penguins from the older members of the flock by their markings. Juvenile black-footed penguins have all-black feathers on their faces and lack a black chest stripe. They won’t get their adult markings until they molt.
The juvenile males are all one year old. Tapanga is two years old and has already molted, so she has white facial markings like the other adults.
During the annual molting season, a penguin’s old feathers fall out and are replaced by new feathers, a process that takes several weeks and leaves the penguin with temporary bald spots. Zoo keeper Britni Plummer explains, “Penguins go through changes in behavior and appearance when they molt. They gain weight, don’t swim as much, and their whole body looks different.” Plummer says that guests sometimes express concern about the molting penguins. “We’ve had guests ask if our penguins are sick when they’re molting, because the animals look so different. They’re not sick, it’s just a normal part of their life cycle.”
When Ollie, Cricket, and Roman are mature enough to breed, one of them is likely to pair up with Tapanga. Once Tapanga has chosen her beau the other suitors will have to look for a new partner. Penguins pair for life.
Click on the photos to enlarge: