News Animals 9 Rare Penguin Chicks Hatch at UK Zoo The birds face a high risk of extinction in the wild. By Mary Jo DiLonardo Mary Jo DiLonardo LinkedIn Twitter Senior Writer University of Cincinnati Mary Jo DiLonardo has worked in print, online, and broadcast journalism for 25 years and covers nature, health, science, and animals. Learn about our editorial process Published July 11, 2022 09:51AM EDT Fact checked by Haley Mast Fact checked by Haley Mast LinkedIn Harvard University Extension School Haley Mast is a freelance writer, fact-checker, and small organic farmer in the Columbia River Gorge. She enjoys gardening, reporting on environmental topics, and spending her time outside snowboarding or foraging. Topics of expertise and interest include agriculture, conservation, ecology, and climate science. Learn about our fact checking process Share Twitter Pinterest Email Chester Zoo News Environment Business & Policy Science Animals Home & Design Current Events Treehugger Voices News Archive Nine rare penguin chicks were recently born at a zoo in the United Kingdom. The Humboldt penguins—a species vulnerable to extinction—were hatched at the Chester Zoo. The first few weeks after hatching, the tiny chicks stayed in their nests while being cared for by their parents. “There’s nothing quite like hearing tiny chirps coming from the penguin nests and seeing little balls of fluff snuggled up with their parents just moments after hatching,” Sophie Bissaker, parrots and penguins keeper at the zoo, said in a statement. “And, over the course of just a few weeks, we’ve been lucky enough to hear lots of those chirps as nine new chicks have now hatched. Penguin Island is buzzing with activity.” Humboldt penguins are classified as vulnerable by the IUCN Red List of Endangered Species. That means the species faces a high risk of extinction in the wild and the classification is just one step away from being listed as endangered. For about the first three months, parents protect the babies, feeding them and watching them. They eat fish, swallow it, and turn it into a liquid high in protein. Then they regurgitate it and feed it to their offspring. The chicks are learning to swim under their parents’ close supervision. “They’ve just started to venture out of the nest to begin swimming lessons in the main pool where they’ll learn how to catch food for themselves,” Bissaker said. “In a few weeks, they’ll shed their fluffy grey feathers to reveal their iconic black and white feathers underneath, which are waterproof and help them zoom through the water!” The first to emerge was a chick that keepers named Plum. Sticking with a fruit theme, Plum was followed by Satsuma, Lemon, Papaya, Iona Berry, Peach, Cherry, Rhubarb, and Banana. About Humboldt Penguins Chester Zoo Humboldt penguins are classified as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Endangered Species. That means the species faces a high risk of extinction in the wild and the classification is just one step away from being listed as endangered. According to the IUCN, there are no more than about 23,800 adult Humboldt penguins in the world. Humboldt penguins (Spheniscus humboldti) are native to the coasts of Chile and Peru. The birds nest on islands and rocky coasts. The cold Humboldt current flows along the penguins’ habitat, providing cooler waters and lots of fish, plankton, and krill. Both the penguins and the current were named for the 18th-century explorer Alexander von Humboldt. The current flows north from Antarctica along the western coast of South America. The penguins face threats from climate change, overfishing from industrial operations, invasive species, and human activity. Populations were harmed when guano deposits were mined in order to be used for fertilizer. The birds prefer to nest in the bat deposits. These threats often force Humboldt penguins to travel long distances to find enough food. This is particularly the case in the past few years when the prey has become more scarce. Black, White, and Pink Chester Zoo When Humboldt penguins hatch, they weigh only about 80 grams (2.8 ounces). They triple in size in their first three weeks. Adult penguins grow to be about 26 to 28 inches long and can weigh up to about 10 pounds. They have a distinctive black band of feathers across the chest and pink blotches on their face, feet, and the undersides of their wings. The pink is actually patches of bare skin that help keep the birds cool when the weather gets warm. Read More 10 Phenomenal Penguin Species Penguin's Cataract Surgery Saves His Vision Pandemic Creates an Opportunity for Penguins at Zoos and Aquariums View Article Sources "Our New Penguin Chicks Are the Pick of the Bunch!" Chester Zoo. "Humboldt Penguin." International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List. "The IUCN Red List Categories and Criteria." International Union for Conservation of Nature. "Humboldt Penguin." Saint Louis Zoo. "Humboldt Penguin." Center for Biological Diversity.