Baby Blue

| January 6, 2010

As you enter The Dallas World Aquarium, it is difficult to miss the little penguins swimming in their pool, or basking on the rocks in their outdoor exhibit that overlooks the South Africa exhibit where the larger Black-footed penguins live. Commonly known as Fairy or Blue penguins (Eudyptula minor), they stand 14 to 16 inches tall and weigh approximately two pounds. Their common names are due to their small size and indigo-blue feathers on the top side of their body. Eudyptula is Greek for “good little diver.” Although smaller in size than other species of penguins, their social nature is similar to that of their larger relatives. Adults have a variety of calls that announce their location, aggression, danger and advertise for mates. Chicks use a high-pitched peep to let you know they are hungry. They are found around the waters of Australia, New Zealand and Tasmania.

On March 7, our first Blue penguin successfully hatched at the DWA! The egg had been placed in an incubator soon after being laid. Weighing 38.9 g, it was moved to the nursery after hatching, where it is one of 12 baby birds being hand fed (aracaris, toucans, cocks-of-the-rock, Guira cuckoo, parrots and pheasants).

The initial formula for the baby penguin included krill, herring and vitamins. At two weeks of age, it started eating pieces of fish. In their natural habitat, the babies are fed regurgitated food by their parents. Adults feed on a diet of schooling fish, squid and crustaceans. Blue penguins go out to sea before dawn to hunt for food in the shallow waters close to the shore and return to their underground burrows after dusk. Although not globally threatened, they face many threats to their survival. Predators at sea include sharks, Killer whales and seals. Predators on land are eagles, gulls, feral cats and introduced species of foxes and dogs. Lizards and snakes also prey upon eggs and hatchlings. Man-made obstacles are plastic, road kills, fishing with nets, oil spills and loss of habitat.

For now, the baby penguin is simply known as Baby Blue, although DNA results indicate that it is a female. Sharing its space, are surrogate plush penguins, and although they are rather subdued and not blue in color, Baby Blue does not seem to object at this stage in her development. Hopefully the biological parents, Simon and Diddy, will show more enthusiasm when they meet their first offspring!

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