Chapter 1: This Summer, Feathers Will Fly

July 12, 2017

African penguins in exhibit

Written By

Sunny Nelson

Hope B. McCormick Curator of Birds

Welcome to “All My Penguins,” a new web series from Lincoln Park Zoo that documents the drama among the 15 African penguins residing at Robert and Mayari Pritzker Penguin Cove. You can follow the series by subscribing to ZooMail, which will include new “All My Penguin” posts at least every two weeks.

Meet the Colony

It’s been just over a year since we welcomed the first penguins back to Lincoln Park Zoo since 2011, when the former Kovler Penguin-Seabird House, built in 1981, closed. As soon as we brought these African penguins to Robert and Mayari Pritzker Penguin Cove, we started watch them both up close and from afar to see how they were getting along.

Before they even arrived, we knew from their individual records that these birds all have unique preferences. Some only liked one kind of fish. Others would only be fed in a certain way. What we didn’t know is who would become the dominant penguin, who would pair with whom, and just how far they’d go to defend their turf.

A year later and they’re doing great. They’ve formed pairs and started to claim certain nest niches as their own. We even have a couple big-personality birds that seem to love nothing more than participating in our Malott Family Penguin Encounters (which visitors tell us they love, too!). And while this is probably another post for another day, we’ve even had a couple of eggs laid.

And that’s where the drama begins. African penguins are social animals. They pair up. Then, maybe they cheat. They compete and even steal from one another. Every day is a new opportunity for Madiba, who gets what she wants, to switch mates—again—or Erik, the rebel, to undermine the dominant penguin, Preston. You never know when Pilchard the Pilferer will strike or Phil, known among keepers as the colony’s “class clown” will go out of his way to entertain.

So, if you’re headed to Lincoln Park Zoo to see the drama firsthand, here’s a (printer-friendly!) “who’s who” at Robert and Mayari Pritzker Penguin Cove.

And should you fall in love with, say, Phil, you may be able to meet him in person during a Malott Family Penguin Encounter. Encounters happen daily at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Book in advance, and get 10 percent off if you’re a member of Lincoln Park Zoo. Encounters only run through October, so get your penguin on while you can!