Special thanks to all who tuned into our Facebook Live on March 26. Find the answers to all our questions here!
What type of penguin was featured? -Mystic Aquarium has 32 African penguins. They come from South Africa and Namibia.
How do they look under water? Underwater they look like perfect diving machines, like a submarine! Their bodies are very streamlined to help them swim at top speeds of 15mph!
How long do they live? Under human care African penguins have been known to live into their late 30’s early 40’s. In the open ocean they typically only live to be around 15 years old. At the aquarium they don’t have to worry about predators, they don’t have to search for their food, and they receive world class veterinary care – all of which contribute to them living long healthy lives. Our oldest penguin will be turning 33 on April 14th!
Do they have blubber? African penguins have a very thin layer of blubber. Since they are from Africa, they are more adapted for warmer weather. Penguins that live in Antarctica on ice and snow have a much thicker layer of blubber.
How many times a day do they eat usually? Our penguins are fed two to three times daily.
How fast can he swim? African penguins can swim at top speeds of up to 15 miles per hour. However, they typically only swim that fast when avoiding a predator or catching up to a school of fish. Usually they cruise at much slower speeds.
Do penguins have predators? African penguins have a lot of predators. In South Africa they have to avoid great white sharks, orcas, and Cape fur seals in the water. On land they have to watch out for flighted birds, feral cats and mongoose. However, human related impacts like oil spills and plastic pollution are the penguin’s biggest threat.
How deep can a penguin dive? African penguins can dive up to 100 meters.
Are they born with fur? Penguins are birds and just like all other birds they are covered with feathers. When they hatch out of the egg, they are covered with fluffy gray down feathers. By the time they are 3 months old they have grown in their first layer of waterproof feathers. Even though penguins have feathers, they cannot fly. Their feathers help them to stay warm in the water, but penguins are actually way too heavy for flight!
Why do penguins have fins? Penguins technically don’t have fins. They do; however, have wings, or flippers, that help them swim very quickly through the water.
What do their feet look? Thanks for the great question, Cassy, age 5. Penguins have webbed feet, just like geese and ducks. They have 3 toes on each foot and even have nails on the end of each toe that help them dig in the sand. In the water their webbed feet help them to steer when they are swimming.
Why are they not born with waterproof feathers? That’s another great question from Connor, age 9. When they first hatch, their downy feathers help to keep them warm. They spend the first few months being cared for by their parents in the nest and cannot go into the ocean until they are bigger. Therefore they do not need the waterproof feathers until they are a little bit older.
How do they grow those feathers? As new feathers grow in, they push out any old feathers and replace them. The old feathers will simply fall off as they go through this molt. Penguins have about 70 feathers per square inch, so that’s a lot of feathers!
Where’s the mother penguin? The chick spends the first couple months with its parents in the nest. Then when it is old enough to start leaving the nest, that is when we start the weaning process. For bird in human care that means teaching it how to eat from the trainers. The parents are now back outside on our habitat with the rest of the penguins. In Africa, the parents would have left the nest and returned to the ocean to hunt for fish.
Are the wings are very fragile at his age? Great questions Rachel, age 10! When the chicks are young, their wings are not fully developed. As they grow, the cartilage and bone in their wings will start to harden. They are generally fully developed by 3 months old so that the chick can use them to go for their first swim!
Are their beaks are sharp? How strong are the penguins? The beak can be very sharp. The penguins have a nice big hook on the end of the beak to help grab and hold onto fish. The penguins also use their beaks as their main defense mechanism to protect themselves from predators.
Do penguins have teeth? Penguins do not have teeth. They have a sharp beak that helps to grab and hold onto the fish, but they cannot chew. So they have to swallow all of their fish completely whole! If you look inside their mouth, they do have barbs on their tongue and roof of their mouth that help to swallow the fish.
When they swim how do they steer? Arianna, age 8, penguins use their feet to steer through the water. They have webbed feet that act like the rudder of a boat.
How old is the chick? The chick hatched at the aquarium on February 3, 2020.
Do you have an adult penguin? Yes! We have a colony of 31 adult penguins, and our newest chick makes 32 penguins total.
What is water temperature? Our water temperature is kept at 65 degrees year round. In the summer we chill it and in the winter we heat it.
What color is the 💩? Penguin poop is called guano. Just like flighted birds you may see that it is sometimes white and sometimes has brown, green, or black in it. The white part is the urine, and the other colors are the poop.
Can penguins can breathe under water? From Grace, age 7 and Owen, age 4. Penguins need to come to the surface to breath air just like we do. They breathe out of 2 small holes in their beak. African penguins can hold their breath for up to 4 whole minutes!
How big do penguins grow up to be? African penguins can stand about 2 feet tall and weigh between 7-11 pounds. They are full grown in size by 3 months old.
Can the penguin chick walk? The chick can walk, yes. He has 2 feet and walks around quite well, just like the adults. During the Facebook live the chick wasn’t walking much because it was focused on its trainer and eating it’s lunch.
How do you tell how old they are? We know when every single ones of our penguins hatched out of their eggs. Just like you know your own birthday, we know each of our penguins hatch days.
How do you tell if they are female or male? There are no distinguishing physical characteristics. You cannot simply look at a penguin to know if it a male or a female. Here at the aquarium, we take a small blood sample from each of our penguins, just like your doctor would do, and from that blood sample we can run a DNA test to find out if it is a boy or girl! We often like to throw a gender reveal party when we find out!
Do they live close to polar bears? Not this species. The African penguin is a warm climate species. They live in South African and Namibia. Interesting fact: all 18 species of penguins live south of the equator. Polar bears only live in the North Pole.
How do you get them to stay that calm in your lap? We work with our penguins every day. Part of that training is relationship building so that they learn to trust us and become comfortable being picked up, touched or even sitting in our lap. It also helps when you have the bucket of fish!
Do they to eat anything other than fish? Our penguins eat several kinds of fish as well as squid. Penguins can also eat krill and small octopus.
How does he get to the aquarium? This penguin was born at Mystic Aquarium, just like most of the penguins in our colony. This is part of the Species Survival Plan which is a breeding effort part of the Assocation of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).
Does the penguin’s foot webbing grow or just stretch when their feet get bigger? Molly age 8 from Philadelphia, their feet grow as they grown, just like your own feet grow with you.
How do you know when a penguin is going to have a baby? Maggie, age 8. Penguins lay eggs just like all other birds. For African penguins, it takes 38-42 days for their egg to hatch once it has been laid.
Do their beaks turn orange? The African penguin species has a black beak for the duration of the life.
Where do different penguins live? There are 18 species of penguins found throughout the world. They can be found in Antarctica, South America, Australia, New Zealand and Africa.
Why do they slide on their bellies? Our penguins can’t slide on their belly. Penguins that live on the ice and snow in Antarctica can slide across the ice on their bellies. They do this to help conserve energy and to move around faster. Our penguins live on sand beaches which would make it very hard to slide.
How many fish do they have a day? Riley age 7. Penguins can eat as many fish each day as they would like. But in average each penguin eats about 1 pound of fish per day (or about 1/8 of their body weight)
How they get away from sharks? Miller (7). The penguins can swim very fast, 15 miles per hour, to try and escape sharks. But they also have great camouflage in the water. Their black and white feathers make it difficult to predators to see them.
Boy or girl? We do not know if it is a boy or girl yet. We have to do a DNA test to find out. Stay tuned on our social media for information about a gender reveal.
Why does this penguin have a black beak? Each of the different species of penguins have very unique features. The African penguin has a black beak, black feet, and a single band across it’s chest.
Is it soft? Riley 3. Riley, the chick is very soft. The fluffy down feathers are super soft, probably like some of your cuddly stuffed animals at home.
How old do you have to be to work with penguins at the aquarium? Hayleigh, age 6. -To be a trainer with the penguins, we have to have a bachelor’s degree in a related field. Many of our trainers have degrees in Biology, Marine Biology, Animal Behavior, Zoology or Psychology. Many of us also started by volunteering at places like Mystic Aquarium. Check out our website for information on our volunteer programs.
How many can live together? Maya, age 8. Some colonies of penguins can be very small, while other colonies have thousands of penguins.
How fast can they go on land? Elizabeth, age 10. While they are very graceful in the water and swim at speeds up to 15mph, they are not as graceful or fast on land. They waddle because their knees are tucked up inside their bodies and the have short legs.
When will little penguin go into the exhibit and will it know his parents? Georgie, age 5. The chick needs to grow in its full layer of waterproof feathers before it can go outside to swim. That will usually happen around 3-4 months old. Stay tuned on our social media for exciting news about a first swim.
-Penguin chicks and parents don’t spend any time together once the chick has left the nest.
Why do penguins shake their heads every so often? They have a gland inside their beak that collects any extra salt the accidentally swallow or get from the fish the eat. When they shake their head, the make a sneezing sound and spit out that salt water. This way they don’t get dehydrated.
Can penguins communicate under water? They make a lot of vocalizations on land, but underwater they hold their breath and usually don’t make any noise.
Do they have exoskeletons? No. All of their bones are internal, just like ours. Penguins have solid bones, unlike flighted birds that have hollow bones.
What are they related to? Penguins are birds and are related to all species of birds. They have feathers and lay eggs. But penguins are one of very few species of flightless birds.
Are there other chicks? Do they to cuddle or hang out with other baby chicks? Averie, age 4. We only had one chick hatch this year. Normally, if there were multiple chicks, they would hand out together once they were weaned from their parents. A group of chicks is called a creche.
Do they lose their feathers and get new ones? Or keep the same ones their whole life? Mona, age 3. Penguins molt their feathers once per year, usually in the summer season. Every year the replace their entire coat of feathers and get all brand new ones.
What is a penguins wing span? Gary, age 6. For the African penguin each wing is about 8 inches long.
Do penguins have tails? Brian, age 4. Penguins do have tails. I personally love to watch them wiggle their tail! (From Tracy Camp, Sr. Penguin Trainer)
Why do only some eggs hatch? Keegan, age 19. Penguins, like chickens, can lay eggs even if they are not fertile. So not every egg will develop into a chick.
What kind of food does baby eat compared to adults? Kelly, age 9. The chick eats the same things as its parents. When the chick is small, the parents eat fish, swallow it down, digest it and then vomit it back up for the chick to eat. And the chick gets older it can begin eating whole fish on its own.
How far do they swim every day? Very little is known about far far the penguins will travel in a day. Usually they stay close to the island near their nesting area.
How is their eyesight? Max, age 7. Penguins can see about the same spectrum of color that you and I can see. Their eyes are also adapted for underwater vision. They have a third eyelid that is clear and acts like a built in pair of swim goggles.
Why do they mate for life? Penguins are one of the few animals that mate for life. No one knows why, but we think it’s pretty spectacular!
Do they live with turtles? Penguins live in the ocean with a lot of other animals, including sea turtles!
Are penguins effected because of the global warming? Yes. As the temperature of the ocean changes, it can cause many problems for penguins and other animals. Mainly the fish will relocate to keep up with ocean temperatures and the penguins have trouble finding food. Overall, human related impacts are causing the biggest problems for penguins around the world. Things like plastic pollution and oil spills are the biggest threats.
What other colors can they be? Gavin, age 6. Most penguins are black and white. Some penguins also have some yellow feathers.
How do African penguins sleep? Penguins will lay down on their bellies to go to sleep. Sometimes they can also take a quick nap while standing up.
Do baby chicks peck when you hold it? Usually the chicks are a little more timid and shy than the adult penguins. We find they are usually more curious and playful than anything.
How long do penguins sleep? Magdalena, age 10. Penguins can often follow the daylight cycle. Just like we usually go to sleep when it gets dark, and we wake up in the morning when it is light. We see our penguins follow a similar pattern.
Are one of the penguins predators are seals? In South Africa they have Cape Fur Seals, (which are actually sea lions, not seals) that do prey on the penguins. They also have to worry about sharks, orcas, mongoose and flighted birds. But humans are their biggest threat.
How do you feed them? We hand feed all of our penguins a variety of fish 2-3 times per day. We go out onto our habitat with a large bucket of fish and all of the penguins come to eat.
Why are they black and white? Their colors help to camouflage them in the water. Their black back blends in with the dark ocean floor and their white belly blends in with the sunlit sky. It makes it harder for predators to spot them.
Do they have a preening gland? Is that where their feather oil comes from? Penguins do have a preening gland! It is called a uropygial gland and it is found at the base of their tail. The squeeze oil out of it form their beak and spread it all over their feathers.
Can they make noise? African penguins make a braying noise similar to the noise a donkey makes.
How do you train a penguin? We use positive reinforcement training. That means we use things that the penguins like to reward them for doing a behavior when we ask. The same way you would give a dog a treat for sitting when you ask. For penguins we use fish, toys and sometimes pet them to reward them.
How long is a baby penguin? Makaylah, age 7. It can depend on the chick, but they are roughly 4-5 inches long
How do they survive under water? From Colin The penguins only go into the water to hunt for food. They can hold their breath up to 4 minutes.
What are the parents names? Green/Pink and Blue/Red
Can be all White? While it is very rare, I can say that I have seen 1 penguin that was all white in South Africa. (We called him Snowball)
How long do their beak grow? Daniel, age 9. Their beaks are made out of the same material as your fingernails, keratin. The penguins beaks will grow throughout their entire life and each penguin has a unique size and shape to their beak.
What do you do with the egg if it does not hatch? We will often save the egg shells for our education programs so that we can show everyone what a penguin egg looks like.
How many species of penguins do you have at the aquarium? Jillian, age 12 and Eli, age 10. We only have the African penguin at the aquarium.
How big are they when they hatch? African penguin eggs are not much bigger than chicken eggs, so the chicks are about the same size. African penguin chicks weigh between 50-75 grams when they first hatch out.
How thick is their coat of fur? Penguins don’t have fur. They have feathers just like other birds. They have 70 feathers per square inch covering their entire body.
What happens if they go in the water and don’t have waterproof feathers? Great question Kaylee, age 8. If the penguins went swimming without their waterproof feathers, they would get too cold and get hypothermia. It is a good thing they have so many feathers to keep them nice and warm!
Why are you raising the penguin by hand? We actually let the parents raise the penguin chick. We believe no one can raise a penguin better than a penguin. Then around the age when the chick would leave the parents nest, that is when we start teaching it how to eat from the trainers.
How often does chick eat each day? Jaxson, age 6. Right now the chick is eating three times every day. But we always make sure it gets enough food. So if it seems like it may be hungry, then we can go ahead and feed it more often.
Are they endangered? Arianna, age 9. Yes Arianna, unfortunately, African penguins are endangered. Scientists predict that they could even go extinct within our lifetime. But hopefully you can help us to help the penguins! Find things you can do at home to protect our oceans like; recycle, turn off the lights, and reduce our use of plastic. Most importantly, keep asking great questions and taking the time to learn about animals!
Are there are any wild penguins in the northern hemisphere? John age 11. All 18 species of penguins live in the southern hemisphere.
What can we do to help penguins in the wild so that they don’t go extinct anytime soon? Siena, age 12. Siena, we are glad you asked that question! Everyone can help to save penguins and other animals. It’s not about everyone being perfect. It is about everyone doing just a little bit more to be better. You can make sure to recycle items in your home but reducing our use of plastic overall is even better. You can also participate in litter cleanups (with mom or dad’s permission), turn off the lights when you’re not using them, take a shorter shower to use less water, and the best thing you can do is continue to learn about animals. The more you learn, the more you care and want to help protect them.
How much time does it take for the penguin to grow? Penguins will be full grown in size by 3 months old!
Are penguins good swimmers? Hi Ben waddell! They sure are. African penguins can swim up to 15 mph. That is very fast! They can also hold their breath for up to 4 minutes at a time. Maybe when the weather is warmer, you and your sister Ella can do your best penguin impressions when you go swimming!
Does it hurt the penguins when they use their 3rd eyelid? Emerson, age 6. The penguins blink their third eyelid when they are on land just like you and I blink our eyelids. We don’t even usually notice when we are doing it and it seems to be the same for the penguins. Once they go into the water, they can keep it shut, much like we would just close our eyes. The only difference is, their third eyelid is clear so that they can see through it.
Do they need a cold or warm environment? Our penguins come from South Africa and they are used to temperatures ranging from 40 – 100 degrees. It does get too cold in Connecticut for them, so sometimes they can’t go outside.
Will they ever be released to the ocean or will they stay? All of our penguins have been hatched at a zoo or aquarium and will spend their lives here at Mystic Aquarium or at another aquarium.
How do they hatch? From inside the eggshell, they begin to peck at the shell with their beak until it makes a hole. Then they continue to use their beak to crack open that shell and come out. Sometimes mom or dad help too.
What kind of shelter do penguins use in the wild? -Alyssa, age 8. African penguins will dig down into the sand on the beach or sometimes the crawl under a bush for shelter.
Do penguins go to the bathroom? Alicia, age 6. Well Alicia, yes. A lot! Penguins can poop about 6-8 times an hour! And they poop everywhere! It is a lot of cleaning for the trainers.
What do the waterproof feathers look and feel like? Mya age 9. They are very smooth when they are wet but very soft when they are dry.
Are penguins at Mystic Aquarium hand fed their entire lives? Landon, age 9. The chicks are raised and fed by their parents when they first hatch. But once they learn to eat from the trainers, they will be hand fed for the rest of their life. This helps us to make sure every penguin is eating every day and help us keep track of changes in their diet to monitor their health. Sometimes we do an enrichment feed, by putting fish into the pool, but that is only every once in a while.
Why do they eat fish? Lily age 7. Penguins live on islands and need to find their food in the water. They eat numerous types of fish, krill, and squid.
Are they color blind? Maya, age 8. Penguins can actually see the same colors you and I can! That is why we often use toys and enrichment items that are brightly colored for them.
Why do penguins waddle? Ellie, age 4. Penguins waddle because their knees are up inside their body and their legs are not very long. It would be similar to tying a rope around your ankles and trying to walk. You would probably waddle around too!
How do they know danger is coming? Penguins mainly rely on their hearing and their eyesight to know if a predator is coming. There is also safety in numbers, so one penguin can alert the other penguins if they sense danger.
Do they have tail feathers? They do have tail feathers. They are just a little bit longer than the feathers on the rest of their bodies.
How long does it take for it to learn to swim? Sesame, age 8. Once the chick has its waterproof feathers it can go for its first swim. This is my favorite thing to watch, because it usually only takes them a few minutes before they are diving and swimming just like the adults.
Are the adult penguins aggressive toward the baby penguin? Right now the chick is not around any of the adults. But once it is, we usually see the adults be very gentle with the chicks and sort of help to watch out for them.
How often do penguins lay eggs? The penguins lay 2 eggs every year during nesting season which is in the winter time.
Will this chick stay at Mystic or go elsewhere? Dante, age 8 and Damien, age 6. Sometimes we relocate penguins to other zoos or aquariums. This helps us to find them a mate. We follow recommendations for the Species Survival Plan for this. We won’t know for at least a couple of years where this chick will end up.
Why can’t penguins fly? Lauren, age 10. Penguins cannot fly because their bones are solid, unlike flighted birds which have hollow bones that make them really light fly. Penguins need the solid bones so that they can dive deep to look for fish.
Why penguins build their nests out of rocks? Claire,age 7. Some species of penguins use rocks to build their nest, but African penguins usually just dig a hole down into the sand on the beach in Africa. They use the sand and their poop to build a cave for their nest.
Can they see under water? Connor, age 6. Penguins have excellent eyesight underwater. They have their own pair of built in swim goggles that help them see to hunt for fish.
Does it spend time with its mom? The chick spent the first 2 months with its parents. Now it has left the nest, it will get to see its parents again when it goes out onto our habitat. However, parents and chick usually don’t spend any time together once the chick is old enough to leave the nest.
Does the chick have any siblings? Great question! The chick does have siblings and they are still part of our colony as well. Their names are Blue/Purple and Purple/Blue.
Do penguins have ears? Caroline, age 6. Yes Caroline, penguins do have ears! You just can’t see them. They have 2 small openings on either side of the head, just behind their eyes. Hearing is one of their best senses and how the recognize each other.
2 1/2 year old question – Is the penguin “floppy”? -The penguin chick does look a little floppy! They are still growing and learning how to walk, run, jump and flap – maybe just like you!
How long does it take for a penguin to trust you? Ally, age 12. That can depend on the penguin. Each penguin is different just like each person is different. They have very unique personalities. They also trust some trainers before others. Each trainer needs to build their own relationship.
What is the temperature of room the penguin is staying in? Lorena, age 9 and Alicia, age 6. We keep the area weaning room at 65 degrees, which is a very comfortable temperature for our African penguin chick.
Do they eat cucumbers? Nope. Cucumbers are not in their diet!
When they are full-grown does the water touch there skin? The water does not touch a penguins skin except on their feet and a small spot above their eye. The rest of their body is protected by feathers which keep them completely waterproof.
Can they be pet? We train our penguins to become comfortable being touched and held. This allows us to provide them with healthcare as well as offering educational up close opportunities for our guests. If you would like the chance to pet a penguin, check out our penguin encounter and penguins up close program once we reopen the aquarium.
How do you know how much to feed the chick? We start with an idea of how much the chick would eat each day, but we let the chick determine its own diet. If it shows us signs that it might be hungry, we will feed it more. If it shows signs that it is full, then it doesn’t have to finish its meal.
Will it bite? It can!
Is a penguin a mammal? A penguin is a bird because it has feathers and lays eggs just like other birds.
How can penguins live in such cold places? Callan, age 6. Our penguins come from Africa where it is very warm. Penguins that live in cold places have very thick blubber and a very thick coat of feathers to keep them warm.
At what age can they get their exam? The vets look the penguin chick as soon as it is born. They check in twice a week until the first swim.
When do you introduce them to the water? -As soon as their full plumage (waterproof feathers) grows in.
What’s their favorite food? Penguins eat several types of fish, krill and squid. Some of our penguins are squid fanatics! They race to the bucket to have some. At the aquarium, squid is considered penguin dessert 😉
Are penguins descendants of dinosaurs? Yes, birds are the closest living relative to dinosaurs.
Are the fish are frozen? Rocco, age 11. Our fish do come in frozen. We have a freezer that can hold up to a 2 month supply. All of our fish is restaurant quality and is thawed out and inspected by hand before we feed it to our animals.
How much do their eggs weigh? Evey, age 7. African penguin eggs weigh roughly 100 grams, but it can change as the chick develops.
Do you still have a wish list on amazon? We do still have a wish list on Amazon, or you can make a donation directly to the aquarium through Mysticaquarium.org. Thank you! Our animals greatly appreciate it.