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Penguin nesting season begins

The penguins at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium are entering nesting season!

Despite the coronavirus pandemic, keepers at the zoo continue to work and care for the animals. As part of that care, keepers prepared Penguin Point for nesting season, adding long grasses for the Magellanic penguins to use to build their nests.

“They need to have a soft nest to lay the egg on while they incubate it,” said assistant curator, Amanda Shaffer. “The two parents will take turns laying on the egg to keep it warm while the chick develops. Each parent has a bare patch on their lower abdomen that allows their body heat to help keep the egg warm.”

So far, keepers have observed at least six eggs laid.

two penguins watch egg
Penguins enter nesting season

There are currently 13 penguins at Point Defiance Zoo, and Shaffer said all three adult pairs have laid two eggs each this year. The others are all younger penguins that are not able to produce eggs yet.

Each female penguin generally lays two eggs, a few days apart. If the mating was successful, chicks could be hatched by mid to late May. It takes around 38-42 days for the eggs to hatch.

Once chicks arrive, they’ll be hidden for their first few weeks, keeping warm and safe beneath their parents. The chicks will periodically emerge for feedings, when the parents give them regurgitated fish they’ve already eaten.

If chicks are hatched, this would be the fourth consecutive year for the hatching of penguin chicks through the zoo’s participation in the Association of Zoos’ & Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan® (SSP) managed breeding program for Magellanic penguins. Magellanic penguins are native to the South American shores of Argentina, Chile, Uruguay and Brazil. They are threatened in the wild by a number of factors, including the proliferation of plastics in the ocean, spills of oil and other hazardous materials, and overfishing.