Wednesday 12 May 2004
We have had an eggsciting arrival here at Whipsnade; a tiny, new rockhopper penguin chick!
During the spring a few of our rockhopper penguin pairs were sitting on eggs so we have been eagerly awaiting chicks this year. 10 days ago one of these eggs hatched and is now being hand-reared by our specialist bird keepers.
Rockhopper penguins are notoriously difficult to breed in captivity, and are becoming rarer and rarer in the wild- hence this eggsciting news announcement. It has been four whole years since we last had a rockhopper chick at Whipsnade Wild Animal Park!
Rockhoppers are part of a family of penguins called the crested penguins because of the brightly coloured feathers on their heads. Adult birds have bright yellow feathers that look like long eyebrows, which protrude from their heads in quill-like clumps! Adult birds are also easily recognisable by their bright red eyes and bright orangey-red bill.
The chick is being hand reared because its parents are relatively inexperienced birds and it is vital that the new addition joins the colony as a healthy adult. It will remain in the penguin nursery in the bird garden for a couple of months until it gains adult feathers and develops further. It will then be moved to the main pool in the Asia region of the park to join the main colony.
At present the chick is being fed a diet of liquidised sprat and saline solution. It's a full-time job acting as a 'rockhopper mum' - the chick needs constant attention and feeds three times a day.
Rockhoppers live on most of the islands in the Antarctic region. There are major colonies on the Falkland Islands and New Zealand. Rockhoppers are about 18 to 23 inches (45 to 58 centimeters) and can weigh about 5 to 8 pounds (2 to 3 kilograms). They get their name because they hop over rocks and crevices on the shores where they live. In the wild, they eat squid, krill, and other small fish.