Bequette's and Morgan's chicks
It's that time of year when we weigh our yellow-eyed penguin chicks to see how the parents are doing and some of them come up a little short. That's ok though as in these two cases:
Bequette and her mate have done very well raising their chick to this age but the chick was not quite fat enough and it was probably enough for a young sweet 2-year old female breeding for the first time. So here the chick is in rehab with her mate from next door: Morgan was raising a couple of chicks but one was a little on the 'not quite fat enough' side. The chicks know each other because they were neighbours and they hung out together while waiting for their parents to come home from fishing. So we put them together in their wee pen.
Next skill to master: how to eat from the hand.
We had a double fatality yesterday and it reminds us to keep watching over these penguins but the reality is that we can't cure death. On our round we found a female yellow-eyed penguin who was raising a two chicks. She was just dead. No external injuries, she was a good weight - in other words: nothing wrong except she was dead. One adult can raise one chick but not two chicks, so we took one of her chicks into rehab and left the other one with dad. We will be keeping a close eye on him and his chick.
The other sad event was the death of a chick that we had brought into rehab in the morning (different one to the one above). We had marked it with a transponder on Monday and it was ok'ish in terms of weight, but we wanted to reweigh it and it had lost half a kilo. Nothing drastic, it was still 4.2kg and off it went into rehab. It was dead by evening - again nothing apparently wrong with it, it just died.
Life is so precarious and we do our best to diagnose the birds but neither were given off signs of impending death such as wheezing, being super skinny, being injured etc. We still have much to learn but for now we are sad.
70 day weigh in
Every year we measure and weigh all of our yellow-eyed penguin chicks when they reach the milestone of 70 days to see how they are getting on. They ought to be at least 5kg and most of them managed that comfortably - one was 6.2kg! On average they were 5.3kg but we had to bring in four chicks that were definitely not thriving - around 4.5kg. Another 6 chicks were borderline and we will re-weigh them again a week later to see if they have put on weight. If not they go into rehab as the parents are obviously not coping. If they have put on weight we will leave them with the parents. Everyone gets re-weighed at 90 days and should be over 5.5kg then.
Taken chicks away from the parents will allow them to fatten up sufficiently for the moult and we expect them to manage that unassisted. So relieving the parents and getting the chicks away at fledging age (108 days old) from rehab weighing over 6kg means the parents are ok and the chicks have the best possible chance of surviving. Win-win all around!
Neighouring yellow-eyed penguin chicks will wander around during the day and if they find other chicks, they often sit together for company. They are very sociable birds. In the evening when the parents return with dinner they will head past the creche and head towards home and only their own chicks will follow the familiar way home - and that's how they can tell their own chicks from the neigbour's and don't feed the wrong ones.
Bequette's baby's belly
The yellow-eyed penguin chicks are growing fast: Bequette, who has a kind sponsor, is raising this one and it has already got a white chest and belly and blue tips on it's flippers. It is already as big as it's parents but still fluffy so it looks even bigger! Soon the down is gone and voila - a real penguin emerges. Not long now!
Even though these two yellow-eyed penguins have been mates for years and years, this is the greeting after one of them has returned from fishing - a lesson for some of us maybe?? A great example if nothing else!
This is one of our favourites: he is 20 years old and loved by a kind sponsor and this season this yellow-eyed penguin male is raising two chicks. He's been around the block a couple of times and has lots of experience but in previous years only one of his chicks have made it. This year is a good one and he's got two and they are looking mighty fine!
An extra box for extra shade
This pair of yellow-eyed penguin chicks live in luxury: they hatched in a wee A-frame but once they were big there wasn't enough space in the box to get out of the sun and not a lot of shade around so they were given an extra box kindly donated by one of our sponsors. It has proven to be popular with them and they are usually inside on sunny days.
We marked most of our chicks this past weekend as they to got to 70 days old and the parents of these two were struggling evident by the chicks being underweight. To save the parents - the female in particular - we took the chicks into care so that their parents can now concentrate on getting through their moult easily. This pair rarely manages to raise two chicks and often even struggles with one - so they have done well to get them this far. We now take over and the chicks will be released when they are 3.5 months old and weigh around 6kg.
A very comfy penguin retreat
Some yellow-eyed penguin pairs have great taste in nest boxes - this one has a fancy veranda for extra shade and some fancy folk who sponsored the box. The chicks here are home alone with both parents away at fishing and on a sunny day they still have shade and catch the breeze as well.
This is a wonderful time of year with many fluffy yellow-eyed penguin chicks hanging about in our forest. Occasionally we see the previous generation about like this beautiful juveniles stretching its flippers on its day off from fishing. These are exactly one year older than the fluff balls in the forest - notice how it has a yellow eye unlike the chicks. This juvenile will moult next month and then be a real yellow-eyed penguin with a yellow head band - if it's a girl she might have fluff balls of her own by next Christmas! Lets hope so.