Moult season nears an end in the penguin colony

  • December 17, 2013 | Tracy Shaw, Mammal and Bird staff member

Moult season is nearing an end (November to January), and most of our birds have replaced old, dull, worn feathers with sleek, brilliant, new ones.

The moult is an energetically expensive time for the penguins, lasting for about three weeks and rendering these aquatic birds land-bound. Having lost their waterproofing they can no longer take to the water to forage.

A few weeks before the shedding phase begins, the birds undergo a stage of pre-moult fattening, increasing their body weight and building up fat reserves to sustain them through this physically demanding period.

We have seen our colony’s daily food intake double or even triple as the birds prepare for this process. As a result we have had some exceptionally grumpy, chubby penguins with bad-feather days in the rookery this past month.

Our three youngest, Kola, Kitana, and Kalahari, have just experienced their first moult into adulthood, a very exciting time for both us and the birds.

Bird and Mammal staff member Tracy Shaw tends to the penguins

The youngsters have lost their greyish-blue juvenile coats and in place received their characteristic black-and-white banded adult plumage, which allows them to blend in with their adult counterparts in the colony.

Juvenile African penguins usually undergo their first moult into adulthood after fledging at between 12 and 23 months of age, and thereafter they moult annually.

Love is in the air this month with cupid striking a connection between two of our young birds, Kitana and Lucky. They seem to be in the process of pairing up, which has been incredibly rewarding for us to watch.

The lovebirds have been showing signs of affection towards one another, preening each other and displaying what could be the start of a lifelong bond.

Daiquiri, one of our hardy males, celebrated his ninth birthday on 4 December. Daiquiri was found stranded at Perriars Rock (halfway between St Lucia and Cape Vidal) on 4 December 2004.

He was moulting when he was found and arrived at Seaworld on 8 December 2004. Daiquiri has paired with Ariel and the happy couple has successfully produced seven chicks during their partnership.

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