A five-week-old rockhopper penguin, born at Riverbanks Zoo and Garden on June 14, is now making its home on the zoo’s Penguin Coast.
The new chick is the first penguin hatching at the zoo since the arrival of "Chillen Jillen" -- a gentoo penguin born on June 27, 2010. The baby rockhopper is currently being raised on exhibit by its parents but has not yet made its public debut.
"At this time, the hatchling’s nest is located in an enclosed area for the bird’s safety," said Martin Vince, curator of birds at Riverbanks Zoo and Garden. "Once the chick has developed its waterproof feathers, at about three months old, and is able to swim in the 40-degree water, the safety barrier will be removed and the bird will be visible to the public."
Penguins are found only in the Southern Hemisphere and spend a great deal of time in chilly waters. To stay warm, the entire surface of a penguin’s body is covered with densely packed feathers that are coated with oils secreted from a gland at the base of their tails. These oils are spread across the birds’ feathers with their beaks -- making their plumage impenetrable to water. Between the highly weatherproofed plumage and layer of fat there is a mantle of warmed air that also provides a protective layer of insulation.
Riverbanks is home to three different species of penguin: the rockhopper, king and gentoo. Rockhoppers get their name because the birds hop from rock to rock bouncing along on both feet.
The baby rockhopper isn’t the only new chick in town. Riverbanks is also now home to a one-month-old Caribbean flamingo and two six-week-old Toco toucans. The baby flamingo is on exhibit daily with the zoo’s entire flamingo flock next to the Birdhouse at Riverbanks, while the young toucans are on display in the Bird Garden across from Kangaroo Walkabout.