Moulting in the heat
Wednesday 19 July 2006
If you think your hair’s responding badly to the above average temperatures, thank your lucky stars you aren’t going through an annual moult like the penguins at ZSL London Zoo.
We all have bad hair days, but most of us can stick on a hat to hide the bouffant or at least stay hidden away from public scrutiny.
Not so easy for our penguins, who not only loose all their feathered finery in one go, but who are also constantly on show in front of thousands of visitors at ZSL London Zoo!
Penguins moult once a year like most birds, but are different in that other birds only loose a few feathers at a time and replace them periodically over a few months, whereas the moulting process in penguins is very fast taking only one to two weeks.
Penguins moult all in one go because they need to remain waterproof, bald patches and missing feathers would let in water meaning they would get cold.
A couple of weeks before their moult they eat lots of food and put on loads of weight - almost doubling in size, then they stay out of the water and live off their fat reserves whilst they wait for their old feathers to drop out and new ones to push through.
Bad hair aside, you can catch up with our penguins everyday at ZSL London Zoo in the pool by the main gift shop, if you visit them at feeding time you can learn more about this unique species and the individual characters we have in our collection.