There are three new rare baby birds at a zoo in Maryland.
African penguin chicks hatched at the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore on Sept. 18, Sept. 22 and Oct. 4.
The penguins are the first to hatch during the 2020 to 2021 breeding season at the zoo’s “Penguin Coast” exhibit.
“It’s amazing to me that we are in our 53rd year working with African penguins. We are always excited to watch the colony grow each year, and happy to announce that three chicks have hatched already this breeding season,” said Jen Kottyan, avian collection and conservation manager. “We expect to hatch 10 chicks during this breeding season, but of course that is all dependent on the penguins.”
These penguin chicks hatch 38 to 42 days after the eggs are laid, according to the zoo. The Penguin Coast team monitors the development of the eggs by “candling” them about a week after they are laid to see if they are fertile and that the chick is growing.
The eggs are then placed back with the parents.
“With African penguins, both the male and the female take turns incubating the eggs,” Kottyan said. “Once the eggs hatch, parents take turns caring for their offspring; they each protect, feed, and keep the chick warm for 2-3 days and then switch off.”
The Maryland Zoo said they have the largest colony of African penguins in North America with 104 birds, which includes the new hatchlings.
African penguins are extremely endangered with the 2019 penguin census showing a dramatic decline in South Africa, with approximately 13,500 pairs, a loss of 2,000 pairs from 2018, according to the zoo.
The global population, which includes Namibia, is now around 18,500 pairs, down from well over 2 million pairs in the 1920s, which is a 99.2% decline over the past 100 years, the zoo says.
For updates on the chicks in the coming weeks, visit the zoo’s website.