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New Penguin Eggs at the Tennessee Aquarium

4/23/2010 12:27:40 PM

                                                  Paulie, a macaroni penguin, protects his first egg of 2010 at the Tennessee Aquarium

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                Contact: Thom Benson 423-785-3007

Egg-Citing Start to Nesting Season at the Tennessee Aquarium
Fast Start with Four Macaroni Eggs Discovered Before May 1st

Chattanooga, Tenn. (April 23, 2010) – Macaroni eggs have been discovered at the Tennessee Aquarium just two weeks after the penguins received the rocks needed for nesting material. The first egg was found April 16th while keepers were cleaning the exhibit. “It wasn’t in a nest, but just out in the open,” said aviculturist Loribeth Aldrich. “There were four pairs of macaroni penguins in the general area, so we couldn’t tell which bird had laid this first egg.”

When Aldrich approached the egg, none of the penguins seemed interested in protecting it. This is not abnormal behavior since macaroni penguins typically discard their first, smaller egg by kicking it out of the nest or crushing it. “A few days later we found that Little Debbie had laid an egg, so they must have both been hers,” said Aldrich. This egg was also laid on the floor and not in a nest. The macaroni was not incubating the egg and keepers pulled it from the exhibit the next day. Little Debbie had been courting Hercules, but he does not seem interested in her. “Every time they are together, he starts biting at her to chase her away,” said Aldrich. “So the egg probably wasn’t viable in the first place. Even if it had been, it would have been nearly impossible for Little Debbie to incubate the egg without a diligent mate.”

Chaos and Paulie, last year’s role model penguin parents, produced the season’s third egg. This was discovered Wednesday and has not been discarded yet. “Last year they only kept the first egg for about 24 hours before crushing it in the nest,” said senior aviculturist Amy Graves. “But they were very diligent parents incubating their second egg and ultimately raising Pepper.”

Aquarium guests can observe Chaos and Paulie in the far left-hand side of the exhibit. The same nesting spot they chose last season. Both are being very protective of their first egg of this season while their offspring, Pepper, keeps a close watch nearby. “What we’ve learned from other penguin experts is that Pepper is going to be the biggest threat to any new chicks this year,” said Aldrich. “First year birds always show the most aggression towards new chicks. Based upon Pepper’s feisty personality, we’re going to have to watch her closely. She could end up being a good big sister, but she could also turn out to be a big bully.”

This morning, yet another macaroni egg was found. This one belongs to Sweet Pea and Merlin. “They seem to be very attentive to their first egg, so hopefully Sweet Pea and Merlin will turn out to be great parents like Paulie and Chaos,” said Graves.

The gentoo nesting is taking place at a much more leisurely pace. Aldrich and Graves say that’s to be expected based on last year’s activity and what they have observed this year. “We knew the macaronis were ready for this season,” said Graves. “Once the macs got the rocks, the macaronis started building nests immediately. But we should start to see more gentoo activity now that a few eggs have started appearing in the exhibit.”

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