Six African Black-footed Penguins born earlier this year have just joined the adults, full-time, in the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas' display. Darwin Long, senior aviculturist at the Aquarium, says the juveniles have shed their down, grown their water-proof plumage, and are ready to swim with the grown-ups.
“They’re going to get in little fights here and there, nothing serious. But it’s mainly: 'Hey, this is who’s who. This is where to go and where not to go.' You can see how they kind of hang out together. This is kind of like the adolescent shore over here.”
The silver juveniles converge on the left side of the display. They’re as big as the adults, but don’t have their black-and-white tuxedos just yet.
Long says the aquarium is heeding the worldwide call to breed more of these endangered birds in captivity. A relatively new incubation system has been fine-tuned to handle New Orleans’ high humidity. That led to this recent baby-boom — okay, chick-boom — of penguins.
“We do have eggs in the incubator, so we’re kind of optimistic in the future you’ll be seeing more than just these six in here,” Long says.
Behind the scenes, Long shows off a nesting pair.
“A courtship call, it’s a duet. That’s X and X our nesting pair." He pauses as the birds call out again. "Now, that’s a vertical ecstatic display. It’s territorial; it sounds like a donkey.”
Most visitors won’t get to hear those courting calls or ecstatic displays quite so loudly, from behind the glass. But they can see the penguins, the adults and the new juveniles, get fed at 10:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. daily.