Gentoo Penguins Digit and Killian Welcome a Chick

This is the ABQ BioPark’s first penguin baby since the Penguin Chill exhibit opened in mid-2019.

Dec. 3, 2022 - The ABQ BioPark is excited to announce its first penguin chick since the opening of the Penguin Chill exhibit in July 2019!

The new gentoo chick, offspring to female Digit and male Killian, hatched on November 22. Keepers first discovered the egg in mid-October, and the parents spent the month taking turns incubating it.

“The penguin team is very excited to welcome a baby penguin for the very first time,” said Ashley Bauer, assistant curator of birds. “Our dedicated staff of penguin professionals has worked very hard to ensure that our birds are thriving, and breeding is a great indicator that they are comfortable in their home.”

Gentoo Penguin Chick with Parent

The chick had its 10-day wellness check on Thursday and weighed in at 537 grams (just over 1 pound)—almost quadruple its weight upon hatching! Vet staff say the baby is doing well.

Right now, Digit and Killian are taking turns sitting on the chick, ensuring it stays nice and warm. Baby penguins cannot regulate their own body temperature well, so this is an important part of the rearing process. The parent who is not sitting goes out to feed, and both parents regurgitate food for the chick. Baby lets its parents know it is hungry by vocalizing with “peeps.” Right now, penguin keepers are feeding Digit and Killian four times a day instead of the usual two. This ensures that mom and dad have more than enough food to nourish themselves and the chick.

In a month or so, the chick is likely to start wandering further and further from its nest. It will start by standing near the edge of its nest, and will then slowly venture out more and more. Shortly after that, when the chick starts dropping its down to make room for waterproof feathers, keepers will take it to a behind-the-scenes holding area. Here, it will start “swim school” with keepers in a kiddie pool. This will ensure the chick learns to swim properly before being out in the big tank.

Penguin keepers prepared for mating season by providing penguins with everything they needed to build their nests. They left 1,200 pounds of landscaping stones in the exhibit: penguins chose their favorites and took them back to their nest sites. Keepers also observed the penguin pairs closely, noting where they liked to hang out. In each of these spots, they left a BMX tire, which helps penguins define their individual nest site.

Digit and Killian are not the only penguins nesting this year. Five out of the ABQ BioPark’s six gentoo pairs are nesting, along with three macaroni pairs. This is the most nesting pairs the BioPark has ever seen since the exhibit opened, and it is a great sign that the penguins are healthy and thriving in their home.

Penguin Chill Reopening!

After closing on October 11, 2022, in response to the avian flu, the Penguin Chill building will reopen to the public starting Saturday, December 3. However, the threat of HPAI still exists, and the BioPark is limiting guest access to keep the penguins safe during this ongoing epidemic. This includes utilizing an alternative entryway and restricting the upper level of the building to staff. These measures will lower the chances of visitors tracking in this highly contagious virus, which could pass on to penguin caretakers’ shoes, ultimately endangering the penguins.  

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