It’s autumn in Montréal, meaning it’s spring in the Antarctic and spring for our penguins. Moreover, one of our macaroni penguin couples (Eudyptes chrysolophus), recognizable by the yellow crest above their eyes, gave birth to an adorable chick on November 8.
The happy parents had two eggs in early October. As is usually the case with this species, of the two eggs laid, only the second one was kept. Since the Biodôme’s inauguration, 21 macaroni penguins have been born here.
At hatching, our new resident weighed barely 125 grams. By five days, his weight had more than doubled, reaching 312 grams, which is perfectly normal, and even recommended, for a young penguin. Its parents are very much a presence in its life, and look after it diligently. Actually, these are experienced penguins: they’ve already had three chicks together since the Biodôme opened.
Ensuring chicks’ survival
Macaroni penguins grow up fast. Around the age of 40 days the young penguin tends to want to leave the nest and explore the vast world. This exposes it to dangers, even in an environment as protected as the Biodôme’s. On the one hand, other adults – whose territory it might cross or whose nests it might disturb – could attack him. On the other, he could quite simply drown in the basin. As it happens, the young are covered in down until the age of roughly three months. But it’s the real feathers that guarantee the bird’s waterproofing.
Training and stress reduction
So we’re taking advantage of this period to remove the young one from the habitat and begin the weaning process. This lasts on average about 30 days, and allows us to initiate the bird’s biomedical training program. We teach it to be touched and to be fed by hand, to get up on the scale, to move around as directed, and so on. All this is designed to lower stress levels during animal handling and veterinary care.
The young one’s weaning period will come to an end when it sports all its feathers and is as comfortable in the water as any penguin. At that point it will rejoin the members of our macaroni colony in the Sub-Antarctic Islands ecosystem.