Chapter 5: Something’s Fishy

August 30, 2017

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

For a temperate species, things got heated in the last episode. Love triangles left some young and nestless and bachelors got beaky. It was intense. Just as the seas seemed to calm, things got a little fishy.

To be fair, things are always a little fishy at Robert and Mayari Pritzker Penguin Cove.

Make sure your catch of the day is African penguin-friendly by downloading the Seafood Watch App! You smelt it? The keepers probably dealt it.

Lincoln Park Zoo’s keepers feed roughly one pound of capelin, herring, anchovy and silverside minnows to the cozy colony daily.

In order to ensure that each member of the colony receives proper nutrition, our keepers work with our full-time dietitian to determine what’s on the menu and then handfeed the penguins twice daily.  Of course, no penguin is without preferences.

Aiden, not one for portion control, will only eat the biggest fish. Liam, more concerned with panache, snatches hand-tossed fish out of the air. Maria doesn’t have time to wait around for keepers; her style is more “grab n’ go.” Then there’s Pilchard, the pilferer. If Pilchard is on the prowl, it’s best to play sardines with your sardines – he’ll steal food straight out of a colony mate’s mouth! Sunny sticks her beak up at anything that’s not silverside and Madiba, well, she’s the friend who orders her own food but eats off of your plate for the whole meal, stealing from other penguins even after she’s been offered her own fish!

Check out a penguin meal from a keeper’s perspective below!

In the wild, the majority of an African penguin’s day revolves around food. Sound familiar? Though awkward on land (also sound familiar?), African penguins are strong swimmers and keen hunters. Underwater they can “fly” up to 12 miles per hour thanks to strong, flipper-like wings and torpedo-shaped bodies. For African penguins, being “big-boned” is an asset. Their denser and heavier bones (compared to other birds) equip them for deeper dives. Their tongues and palates are armed with stiff spines that point backward leaving prey without a prayer for escape.

Hungry for more? Tune in next time as we check back in with our pairs to see who’s a homemaker and who’s a homewrecker.

Spotted This Week

Madiba is going steady with Mandela. The two have been engaging in nesting behavior, though Madiba’s former flame, Dudley, is close by. Robben and Preston are also exclusive, much to Pilchard’s dismay. Will Pilchard the pilferer be able to steal more than just fish?

Learn More About African Penguins