A pair of baby penguins is capturing hearts at the Tennessee Aquarium. Gentoo penguins “Biscuit” and “Blue” are the proud parents of not one, but TWO new penguin chicks. The fluffy babies, hatched in early June, are both being raised on exhibit by their parents.
Acting like toddlers, the baby penguins are already exploring their nest.
As any mom or dad would agree, becoming a parent twice in such a short span of time is certainly a challenge. But Aquarium experts say Biscuit and Blue are seasoned parents and have been doing a great job of raising the rather vocal duo. “This is the first time we’ve had a penguin pair successfully raise two chicks without much intervention from staff and volunteers,” said senior aviculturist Loribeth Lee. “We know the best environment for a new penguin chick is in the nest with their parents. But in past years, when any of our couples have had two eggs hatch, we’ve ended up hand raising one chick off exhibit or introducing a set of surrogate parents. So far these two are growing very well thanks to all the hard work by Biscuit and Blue.”
Last year Biscuit and Blue served as surrogate parents to another chick.
When Bug and Big T’s first egg hatched in 2015, they were having difficulty keeping both their chick and their second egg underneath themselves. So the second egg was moved into Biscuit and Blue’s nest since they did not have any viable eggs last year. Aquarium aviculturists think the extra practice helped prepare them to be such great parents to their own chicks this year.
Not only are the two new chicks at healthy weights – an important indicator tracked by penguin keepers – but they are actually a little large for their age, and one of the chicks is noticeably chubbier than his or her sibling. Keepers can also tell them apart by the bigger chick’s lighter coloring and bolder personality.
Lee says while the chicks are growing fast, they are not quite ready for life outside the nest. “They are both interested in exploring the nest when they think we are not around, but as soon as you come close they still hide their heads under mom or dad.”
Family bonds are very important among all penguin species. Aviculturists are seeing this play out in a new way with the new Gentoo chicks. “Something we noticed when the chicks were smaller was that any time both parents were in the nest, mom and dad would both sit on one chick each. That’s pretty unique. We haven’t seen a penguin family do that here before,” said Lee.
Aquarium guests can view the chicks in their nest near the left side of the Aquarium’s Penguins’ Rock exhibit. The rock nest is surrounded by acrylic panels to keep the chicks safe and block any curious neighbors who might want to peek in on the family.
Aquarium experts will also point out the chicks during daily penguin programs at 10:30 am and 3:30 pm.
Watch Gentoo and Macaroni penguins on the Tennessee Aquarium Penguins’ Rock live camera: http://www.tnaqua.org/animals-exhibits/penguins-rock-cam