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Baby Macaroni Penguins on the Way!

ABQ BioPark expecting two chicks this December from mother Minnow and father Jamison. The couple previously had a chick together at Sea World.

Nov. 21, 2020 - The ABQ BioPark's penguins have been here for a little over a year, and it seems they're getting pretty cozy. Penguin keepers discovered a penguin egg on November 2 and another on November 6.

The eggs belong to macaroni penguins Minnow (female) and Jamison (male). Macaroni penguins are monogamous, forming lifelong pairs, and the couple previously had a chick together in 2018 when they lived at Sea World.

When staff found the eggs, they pulled them and placed them in an incubator to ensure they get their best shot. Meanwhile, staff put a dummy egg - a wooden "egg" that is painted white and mimics the real one - in Minnow and Jamison's nest. "We give them the ability to take care of that egg while we take care of the real deal," says Reyna Ortiz, penguin keeper.

Macaroni penguins Minnow and Jamison care for their dummy egg. Minnow is sitting on egg while Jamison sits nearby.

A Special Holiday Gift 

The babies should be here just in time for the holidays! The first egg is expected to hatch between December 9 and mid-December while the second egg is expected to hatch from mid- to late-December.

​While the ABQ BioPark can't predict whether both eggs will hatch, parents will only raise one of their chicks as they would in the wild.  In the wild, females lay two eggs. The first egg is smaller and is abandoned by parents while the second one is cared for. But because the ABQ BioPark pulled both eggs, there is potential for two chicks. 

When the chicks begin to emerge from their eggs, staff will return one of them to Minnow and Jamison's nest so that the parents can take over and raise their chick. The other may be fostered out to another set of macaroni penguins or hand raised by keepers.

The chick will remain in the nest on exhibit with Minnow and Jamison, who will feed and brood it (keep it warm). When the chick is about a month old and fully covered in down feathers, the whole family will be moved to a behind-the-scenes area to allow keepers to bond with the chick. Penguin staff will ween the chick from being fed by its parents and teach it to be hand fed by the animal care team instead. 

Shortly after this, the chicks will lose their fluffy down feathers replacing them with waterproof ones, and keepers will introduce them to water in a shallow holding pool. Here, they’ll practice their swimming skills before being put onto exhibit.

Photo: Jamison (left) and Minnow (right). Minnow is seen here sitting on top of the dummy egg to keep it warm.

A Great Sign for the Zoo's Penguins

Macaroni penguin Minnow sitting on top of a dummy egg.Normally, penguins don't lay eggs for a year or two after they arrive at a new facility, so Ortiz says these eggs are a great sign that the penguins are acclimating to their life at the ABQ BioPark.

Staff are hopeful for more eggs with at least one other macaroni pair. Meanwhile, the gentoo penguins are still nest building in preparation for mating.

Photo: Minnow caring for her dummy egg.

Illuminated Penguin Egg 

Behind the scenes look at an illuminated penguin egg. Photo: NMBPS

Staff illuminated the eggs to get a better view inside. View more photos of the penguin eggs.