First-ever Macaroni Chick Hatched
(Pittsburgh) (May 2014) — The newest chick in town is the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium’s first-ever macaroni penguin to hatch at our facility.
The chick made its appearance on May 12 and weighed only a half-pound. It was small enough to fit into the palm of a hand. Now at two weeks old, the chick is one-and-a-half pounds and doing great. When fully grown, the macaroni penguin will weigh up to 14 pounds. Immediately after birth, the young chick begins chirping to its parents and they answer. This is an important first step for the family to be able to recognize each other through communication.
Penguin parents share chick-rearing responsibilities and first-time parents Zucca and Flurry are very attentive. One parent will regurgitate food for the baby to eat and snuggle the chick to keep it warm while the other parent stands guard to keep the family safe and away from the other curious penguins. Keepers are also keeping an eye on the new family and are pleased with how the chick is progressing. The first year for a penguin is a critical milestone. In zoos and aquariums the mortality rate is low due to a carefully monitored exhibit, veterinary care, and abundant food. The rate is much higher in the wild at almost 70 percent because of predators and scarcity of food.
At just a couple weeks old, the new chick looks like a little ball of fur with fluffy, soft, baby down feathers, a round belly, small wings, and a small bobble head. The coloration of the baby macaroni is lighter on the underside and a darker gray color on the back. In three to four months, the chick will lose its baby feathers and grow waterproof, insulated black-and-white feathers. Its wing bones will also have strengthened. Then the chick is ready for the next milestone—learning to swim.
Macaroni parents lead their chicks to the water, but they cannot always make them swim. If a chick hesitates, mom and dad provide a gentle push into the water and stand by watching their chick take its first swim. Sometimes the big penguin pool can be overwhelming and keepers will step in with a baby pool that young penguins can splash around in, getting their feet wet before tackling the big penguin pool again. For now the little chick is spending time behind the scenes with its parents until it is bigger and can navigate the penguin exhibit.
Three species of penguins call the PPG Aquarium home. You can tell them apart by their size and the color of their feathers. King penguins are the largest and have a bright orange patch of feathers on their necks, gentoos have a wide white stripe going across their heads and a bright orange beaks and feet. Macaroni penguins are identified by a bright yellow patch of feathers on top of their heads.
The Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium is open year round. For directions, hours, tickets, and group sales information, call 412-665-3640 or visit at pittsburghzoo.org . The Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium is an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Look for the AZA logo whenever you visit a zoo or aquarium as your assurance that you are supporting a facility dedicated to providing excellent care for animals, a great experience for you, and a better future for all living things. For more information, visit www.aza.org.