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It's nesting time at SEA LIFE London Aquarium

  • Thursday 18th April 2024


Spring is in the air which means the SEA LIFE team have begun placing pebbles into the penguin habitat to begin the annual breeding season.

At SEA LIFE London Aquarium, our habitat maintains seasonal temperature and lighting that stimulates the annual nesting, breeding and moulting patterns to match the conditions found in the southern hemisphere. The air is filtered twice to ensure the penguins are not subjected to any pollution or airborne diseases such as Avian flu.

Gentoo penguins are monogamous, typically having up to three breeding seasons before finding a new partner. They have one of the most unique courtships in the animal kingdom as young males use pebbles, or stones, to attract females and find a mate.

If the female is impressed, she also finds a pebble and the pair begin building a nest together, creating a home to start their family.

The nests typically take weeks to build but once complete can stand as tall as 20cm high and 25cm wide! Our established couples often return to the same nest each year.

Gentoo penguins usually start breeding when they are 2-4 years old, females lay two eggs and they are incubated for 34-37 days. Both parents take turns incubating the eggs and the chicks remain in the nest for up to a month once hatched, forming small creches.

As the chicks become bigger, the creches become larger and eventually the chicks move further and further away from the nesting site, becoming fully integrated into the colony.

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Despite their preference for pebbles – Gentoo penguins can also get creative when building their nests including the use of plants, grass and even clumps of mud.

Did you know?

  • Picking pebbles are serious business for Gentoo penguins – they carefully pick the roundest, smoothest pebbles – ensuring maximum comfort for their chicks!
  • Pebble theft isn’t uncommon among Gentoo penguins. Some penguins go to great lengths to steal their favourite pebbles, sometimes leading to bickering.
  • Gentoo penguins value loyalty! They often return to the same nest location each year but this loyalty also extends to their choice of pebbles – some penguins will reuse the same pebbles from previous breeding seasons.

As we transition into Spring, join us at SEA LIFE London Aquarium to see our penguins begin building their nests!