Tish Hannan of the Sea Life Sydney Aquarium said penguin couple Sphen and Magic are happily “taking turns caring for their baby chick.”
The little chick, whose permanent name will be decided after their gender is determined in two months’ time, weighs 91 g, which is less than an average orange, or an iPhone. Announcing the news on social media, the aquarium wrote that ‘the proud dads are doing well and are so in love with their precious bub.’
Sphen and Magic had caught the attention of aquarium staff when they were constantly seen waddling around and going for swims together. They then began to build a collective nest of pebbles, prompting the aquarium to provide a dummy egg for them to look after and, when they proved up to the task, a real egg.
The pair has bonded, Hannan, Sea Life’s penguin department supervisor, told AFP. ‘They recognise each other’s signature calls and songs. Only bonded penguins will be able to successfully find their partner using their calls when they are separated.’
Unlike many mammal species, male and female penguins take on the same parenting roles and share parental duties 50-50. ‘There is no real difference when it comes to breeding behaviours between males and females,’ Hannan explained. So it ‘is common to have male-male or female-female showing courtship and breeding behaviour.’
In the wild, however, these courtships are unlikely to result in a chick, so they are normally short-lived, with the penguins becoming unsatisfied and looking for another partner. ‘Because we have given Sphen and Magic the opportunity to have a potentially successful breeding season, it is very likely that they will return to each other again next year,’ said Hannan.
Tish Hannan also said in a statement: ‘Baby Sphengic has already stolen our hearts! We love watching the proud parents doting and taking turns caring for their baby chick. The first 20 days of a penguin chick’s life are the most vulnerable,’ Hannan explained, so it is extra important the chick is very happy, healthy and well fed by his parents.’
After those first 20 days, baby Sphengic will remain with their dads for another two to three weeks, during which time they will continue to feed them up to 10 times per day. After this period, they will lose their baby fluff, grow adult feathers and start learning to swim.
The chick is set for an important role at the aquarium, as it will ‘act as an ambassador for its generation at Sea Life Sydney, and will help educate the public on the precious species and the plight that they face in the wild.’ said Hannan.
Same-sex pairings are relatively common in penguins, with many gay penguin couples attracting a human following after their unencumbered relationships attracted attention.
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