The cat’s out of the bag. Or more like, the penguin is out of the egg! We’ve kept this chick’s arrival quiet for 20 days — and now we’re ready to scream it from the mountaintops. This little one is the FIRST EVER penguin chick to hatch at the Dallas Zoo, making it the tenth member of the flock. Hatched April 15, the African black-footed penguin also is the first chick for proud parents Tazo and Tulip.
“This is a huge deal for our bird team and we couldn’t be more excited,” said Bird Curator Sprina Liu. “We were overjoyed when we walked in that morning and found the chick with its parents.”
The baby is being cared for off-habitat by mom and dad at the Don Glendenning Penguin Cove. For about a month, Tazo and Tulip shared around-the-clock incubating duties until it hatched. Weighing a little more than a C battery at hatch, the chick has grown to about 2.5 pounds.
This hatch was an African Penguin Species Survival Plan (SSP) breeding recommendation by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) to help ensure the survival of this endangered species. Found in South Africa, these birds have suffered a 90 percent decline in population since the early 1900s. Today, fewer than 50,000 African penguins remain in the wild.
“We’ve dedicated years of work to help save African penguins in the wild, and now we’re helping expand their populations in human care,” Liu said. “We’re very proud to be able to add this little one to the North American population.”
But don’t expect to see the baby just yet — with no feathers, it won’t start swimming lessons for a few months. Until then, the chick will remain off habitat, staying close to mom and dad. For now, the parents are doing exactly what they’re supposed to — taking turns keeping the chick warm by spreading their feathers out, allowing it to snuggle up next to them (a term called brooding).
Warning: It’s likely you’ll see our bird keepers walking around with permanent smiles on their faces.