View from the Zoo: Chance to learn more about zoo’s penguins

Humboldt penguins in their enclosure at Flamingo Land.
Humboldt penguins in their enclosure at Flamingo Land.

Here at Flamingo Land we have just celebrated World Penguin Day which took place on Wednesday April 25.

Penguins are an extremely popular animal but it is always important to make everyone aware of why we have them, where they come from, how they are looked after and some of the problems they face in the wild. The penguin talk takes place every day at 3.30pm if you want to learn more about them.

All penguins are found in the southern hemisphere, and our are Humboldt penguins are found off the coasts of Peru and Chile.

They are named after the Humboldt Current which flows from the Antarctic to the Equator. The current brings cold water packed full of anchovies, other types of fish, krill and squid, a perfect feast for the penguins. Due to their adapted wings, streamlined body, and webbed feet, penguins are excellent at diving and hunting.

Now, you may be wondering why penguins are white on their front and black on their backs. This is called countershading and occurs in other animals too. The reason behind this split colour pattern is so that the penguins are better camouflaged from predators (such as seals, sharks and whales) in the water. If a predator is above the penguin and looking down, the black back of the penguin will blend in with the dark depths of the ocean. If the predator is below the penguin and looking up, the penguin’s white belly will blend in with the paler sky.

It is also that time of year where a lot of our penguins are staying in their nests to look after their eggs and newly hatched chicks.

Breeding occurs twice a year and our Humboldt penguins will have just one mating partner.

The female will lay two eggs into a burrow and they take around 40 days to hatch. After 12 weeks the chicks will fledge the burrow, and then become fully mature at two years old.

Once the breeding season is over, penguins will usually enter a moult phase where they replace their current feathers with new ones. During this phase the penguins can look very scruffy and will spend less time in the water as their body will no longer be waterproof and insulate them. They also lose their appetite.