Celebrating our Single Parent Papa Penguin this Father's Day

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15/06/2017

At precisely one month and one day old on Father’s Day, our latest chicks will be raised by just one parent... single dad Gomez

The tiny twosome of Magellanic Penguins, who lost mum Fern a fortnight ago, will learn to swim, feed under water and perfect their waddles on land – all under the watchful eye of their father.

Assistant Head Keeper, Johnpaul Houston, said: “Gomez is doing a great job of being a single dad to one of the chicks. We will be introducing the second chick to Gomez in July having previously moved it to the bird nursery where it hatched on the same day as its sibling!”

Each year our bird keepers choose a TV or movie related theme to inspire the names of their new chicks. 2017 is Star Wars year and the latest additions to the penguin huddle have been named Yoda – the nursery chick - and Chewy who is already with settled with dad.

Magellanic penguins are mostly monogamous – staying faithful to one partner for a lifetime – and sharing rearing duties in two-week shifts.

Keepers kept a close watch on Gomez after Fern passed away at the end of May and were thrilled to see him stepping up to his parental duties by spending more time in the nest.

Johnpaul added: “It was very sad to lose Fern, who was one of our older mums at 20 years of age, but both little birds are doing well and gaining weight on a diet of regurgitated sprats from Gomez and sprat smoothies made by the keepers.

“To maximise all chicks’ chances of survival we initially keep one egg with the parents and move the other to an incubator nursery for early days hand-rearing by the keepers.”

Visitors can view the happy colony of 15 adults and new chicks, which will start to venture out in the coming months, in their home on the penguins' beach area.

We won’t know if the chicks are boys or girls until they are three months old when we are able to carry out a DNA test.

Magellanic penguins live on the coasts of Argentina and Chile. The IUCN Red List classifies the species as Near Threatened as more than 20,000 adults and 22,000 youngsters are killed each year by oil spills.