Chapter 4: Somebody to Preen On

August 16, 2017

African penguins in exhibit, plus zoo branding for "All My Penguins"

For penguins, preening is important. By using their beaks to spread oil from glands at the base of their tails and necks, penguins waterproof themselves to remain torpedo-like in the water. Preening enforces social bonds, a la “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.”

Download the Seafood Watch App to make sure your catch of the day is sustainable and African penguin-friendly.

Volunteers using ZooMonitor, an app designed by Lincoln Park Zoo scientists to help monitor animal behavior and promote welfare, are keeping tabs on who’s preening who. This isn’t for the penguin tabloids. It’s to maintain a pulse on the potential pairs and social structure of the cozy colony. Lincoln Park Zoo’s current African penguins came together from a variety of different Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA)-accredited institutions. With a five to ten female to male ratio and one breeding pair recommendation from the African Penguin Species Survival Plan® (SSP), a collaborative effort among AZA institutions to manage the endangered African penguin zoo population, some penguins were left without companions. Love triangles developed. Bromances blossomed. After all, we all need somebody to preen on.

First Madiba, known for getting what she wants and living with the “there are plenty of fish in the sea” mentality, was spotted allopreening with Dudley and Mandela. Now it seems that she’s going steady with Mandela; the two have started building a nest together!

Pilchard is on the rebound after his former mate Robben left him for Preston, the colony’s dominant male. However, still salty like his fish namesake, he’s been hanging around the nest box next door to Robben and Preston, slowly getting over his breakup with a little help from his friends.

Meet Phil and get up close to the rest of the cozy colony in a Malott Family Penguin Encounter!

Since his breakup, Pilchard has been trying to buddy up with the other birds, allopreening with Maynard (who’s already taken by Aiden) and Phil. Phil is friendly and often first to show up to a Malott Family Penguin Encounter. Pilchard, Phil and fellow young males Aje and Erik, have yet to find true mates, but rely on each other for companionship.

It’s a bachelor’s life for some. For others, it’s time to pair up and settle down in a nest. Tune in next time to see how the nest was won!