Eleven penguin chicks hatch at Chester Zoo

The new arrivals are highly threatened Humboldt penguins. Of the world’s 17 penguin species, they are now among the most at risk.

Parental duties are shared by penguins with both mum and dad playing an active role in helping with the care of the youngsters on the nest. 

Keepers say they are “delighted” to report that each of the chicks has been nurtured beyond the delicate first 40 days of life and, to help them keep track of the new chicks, a different naming theme is selected each year. Previous topics have included NHS heroes, brands of crisps, chocolate bars, and British Olympic athletes.

This year, the chicks are being named after plants, with Nettle, Thistle, Dandelion, Tulip, and Daffodil among the confirmed names so far.

Zoe Sweetman, Team Manager of Parrots and Penguins at Chester Zoo, said, “This year has been a really good year for the penguins with the arrival of 11 new chicks – the most we’ve welcomed during hatching season here at the zoo for more than a decade.

“We’re delighted to say that all of the chicks are looking really healthy and the parents have done a superb job of caring for their new arrivals up to this point.

“As keepers, our main role in raising the new youngsters is to ensure the adult penguins have all they need. Sometimes this can mean providing extra fish, which the parents swallow, churn into a high-protein soup, and then regurgitate to feed the chicks. We also weigh the chicks regularly so that we can monitor their development – on average they’ve gone from a mere 80g to 2.5kg in just 40 days. It’s been a huge team effort.

“Each year the team chooses a new naming theme for the chicks. With 11 to name we could have chosen to name after an entire football team, but this year we’ve decided to go with plants. Nettle and Thistle are the more spiky characters among the group, whereas tulip and daffodil have colourful personalities.”

Humboldt penguins are becoming increasingly rare and are now listed as vulnerable to extinction by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Found on the rocky coastal shores of Peru and Chile, the penguins face threats from climate change, over-fishing of their natural food sources and rising acidity and temperature levels in the oceans – all causing the penguins to search further from their nests for fish which increases their vulnerability.

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Humboldt penguin facts

  • Scientific name: Spheniscus humboldti
  • This South American penguin is named after the chilly Humboldt current, along which the penguins commonly swim
  • Of the world’s 17 penguin species, Humboldts are among the most at risk, with the species classed as vulnerable to extinction by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN)
  • In the wild, Humboldt penguins are vulnerable to disturbances in their food chain caused by strong El Nino currents
  • Humboldt penguins are social animals, living in relatively large colonies of closely spaced burrows
  • Humboldt penguins ‘fly’ through the water at speeds of up to 25mph
  • They enjoy a diet of small fish (anchovies, herring, smelt) and crustaceans
  • The checks hatched at the zoo between 11 April and 18 April.

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