Penguin chicks hatch at Belfast Zoo

Females lay up to two eggs in their nest and they are incubated by both parents for 30 to 40 days.
Females lay up to two eggs in their nest and they are incubated by both parents for 30 to 40 days.

Just in time for Father's Day, nine pentoo penguin chicks have just hatched at Belfast Zoo.

‘The latest arrivals now make Belfast Zoo home to 37 gentoo penguins and two rockhopper penguins.

There are 17 species of penguin in the world and Belfast Zoo is home to gentoo and rockhopper penguins.  The chicks are gentoo penguins.

There are 17 species of penguin in the world and Belfast Zoo is home to gentoo and rockhopper penguins. The chicks are gentoo penguins.

Senior keeper, Allan Galway, said “We are delighted to welcome the new chicks to the flock.

"The penguin breeding season starts in February when we install nest rings for the birds on their pebble beach.

"The male penguins then start to fill the nests with pebbles and stones. These are highly prized by the birds and are an important part of the courtship ritual, as males often obtain a mate by offering the female a nice pebble.

"Females lay up to two eggs in their nest and they are incubated by both parents for 30 to 40 days. The first eggs started to hatch a few weeks ago and since then nine chicks have appeared. The chicks are covered with fluffy and fuzzy down feathers for the first few weeks. As they get older they go through a molting phase to get their adult plumage.”

There are 17 species of penguin in the world and Belfast Zoo is home to gentoo and rockhopper penguins. All penguins are found in the Southern hemisphere. While most people associate penguins with the snow and ice environments of the Antarctic, gentoo penguins can also be found in the warmer climates of the Falklands, South Georgia, Kerguelen, Marion, Macquarie and other remote islands.

Gentoo penguins are protected by the Antarctic Treaty of 1959 and received near threatened status on the IUCN Red List in 2007. Their decline is due to water pollution, global warming, habitat loss and increased disturbance from human interference from tourism, over-fishing and illegal egg collection.

Zoo manager, Alyn Cairns, continues "Penguins are definitely a visitor favourite at Belfast Zoo, especially when they are making waves at the underwater viewing area! We have no doubt that our latest arrivals will be extremely popular! Why not call by this Father’s Day to visit the chicks and find out more about some of our other zoo ‘dads’, including Gugas the gorilla, Spook the Andean bear and Finn the Rothschild’s giraffe, at our feeding times and keeper talks which will be taking place throughout the day on Sunday 18 June.”

If you are potty about penguins, you can now get closer than ever before with Belfast Zoo’s penguin experiences. You can find out more information or book your experience by calling 028 9077 6277 or email experience@belfastzoo.co.uk.

A full schedule of feeding times takes place daily. Call by the penguin enclosure at 2.30pm to see the penguins enjoying their 'fish suppers' and to see the little chicks.