It was an eggstra special Easter for ZSL London Zoo’s penguin colony this year, as the first of two chicks timed their arrival perfectly – by hatching on Easter Monday (April 17).
Followed two days later by its feathery sibling, both Humboldt penguin chicks (Spheniscus humboldti) are now being hand-reared by keepers in the Zoo’s custom-built incubation room, after their parents were unable to care for them.
Covered in soft grey fur, the tiny birds are weighed every morning and hand-fed three times a day by their keepers, and can be seen by visitors cosying up to a cuddly toy penguin under the warming glow of a heat lamp.
ZSL’s Head of Birds Adrian Walls, said: “While everyone was tucking into chocolate eggs over Easter, the first penguin chick of the year was hatching at ZSL London Zoo – it was great timing.”
Keepers at ZSL London Zoo are taking it in turns to look after the youngsters, who aren’t shy about letting them know when they’re peckish.
“The chicks’ bodyweight increases by around 20 per cent every day, so they grow extremely quickly and are always eager for their next meal,” said Adrian. “They make sure we know it’s feeding time – they may be only weeks old but they’ve definitely perfected their squawks already.”
The feisty fish-lovers are being fed a special diet of blended fish, vitamins and minerals – referred to by ZSL London Zoo’s bird keepers as ‘penguin milkshake’ - but as they grow bigger, they’ll also be given small portions of fresh fish to support their development.
The chicks are expected to stay in the incubation room until they reach 10-weeks-old, by which time they should have grown from around 70g at hatch to 3kg in weight.
They’ll then move into the Zoo’s specially-designed ‘penguin nursery’, which includes a shallow pool for their swimming lessons – before eventually being introduced to the other 70 penguins in the colony.
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