A penguin at Living Coasts is turning the natural order of things inside out. Macaroni penguin Juan has chosen to nest in a way usually reserved for another species.
First time parents Juan, aged 17, and his partner, 7 year old Pebbles, have rejected the company of the other macaroni penguins on their rocky beach, preferring instead to breed down a hole, alongside scores of African penguins.
Torquay’s coastal zoo is home to around 80 penguins of two species. African penguins nest in burrows dug into sand, while macaroni penguins usually prefer to lay their eggs out in the open, on piles of pebbles.
So why has Juan gone for a burrow? Keeper Cara Burton explained: “Last year Juan had a squabble over a nest site with another male, so left the macaroni penguin breeding area. He spent a lot of time on the African penguin beach during the summer.
“When winter arrived he moved into a burrow, probably for shelter, and has stayed put ever since. Pebbles showed interest in him last year but nothing happened. This year she tried to tempt him back to macaroni beach a few times but had no luck – so she joined him!”
Macaroni penguins are sub-Antarctic birds; in the wild they nest in large colonies along the rocky coasts of places like Chile and the Falkland Islands. African penguins are officially classed as Endangered. Living Coasts works closely with a South African bird charity called SANCCOB, a leading non-profit organization working to conserve seabirds and other sea-life, especially African penguins.
“This is unusual behavior – it’s the first time it has ever happened at Living Coasts. However, I think they stand a good chance of breeding successfully. Macaroni penguins always kick the first egg out of the nest and then lay a second – they have done this. Everything seems to be going smoothly.
“They don’t have the shelter that the macaroni beach has, so it might get a bit warm for them – we will encourage the birds to bring the chick out and provide shelter and their own water spray.” For more information go to www.livingcoasts.org.uk or ring 0844 474 3366.
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