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Penguin Science for Science Week!

  • Monday 12th August 2019

It's Science Week 2019 and to celebrate, our amazing Bird Keepers have shared some amazing facts about these beautiful creatures with us!

Have you ever wondered how a penguin survives in Antarctic conditions, how baby birds get out their eggs or maybe what we do keep our penguins happy and healthy? 

How do Penguins stay warm when they live and stand on ice?

  • FEET - If a human stood on the ice, not only would our feet get very cold very quickly, but our core body temperature would drop too! This is because we have blood vessels running in a basic loop from our heart to our feet and back to our heart, meaning warm blood would travel down to our feet, get very cold from the ice, and then cold blood would travel back to our heart. Penguins however have very special feet with a counter current heat exchange system! This means that rather than a basic blood vessel loop, the penguins have blood vessels running to and from the heart that are intertwined, which means the warm blood coming down from the heart warms up the cold blood coming back from the feet, keeping them nice, toasty and warm!


  • To stay warm in an icy environment, we have to put on lots of different layers of clothing, and turns out, penguins have layers too! Penguins have 4 different layers of feathers: contour feathers and filoplumes, which is the outer layer of those pretty coloured feathers that help them stay waterproof, and after feathers and plumules, which are the soft downy feathers for insulation to keep them warm! They replace all these feathers once a year in what is called catastrophic moult, which means unlike other birds who lose random feathers here and there, penguins lose all their feathers and grow all new feathers all at once! Which means they look even more fluffy than usual, that’s a lot of feathers!

How does a Gentoo penguin chick get out of the egg?

  • When a Gentoo chick has finished growing and developing inside the egg after 35-38 days, it is time for them to come out into the world! The fully developed chick will internally pip, which means it breaks through the inner membrane of the egg, and starts to breathe in the airspace that is inside the egg with it. However, once the chick starts breathing and the carbon dioxide level in the airspace gets to 10%, this causes the chick to have a spasm, where they throw their head back, causing their egg tooth on their beak to hit the egg shell and cause it to crack! Now the chick has externally pipped and can breathe in air from outside, and begin to wiggle their way out of the egg over the next 48 hours!

Behavioural Enrichment

  • In the wild, penguins would be interacting with all sorts of different things on a daily basis, investigating things and using their brains, and we like them to do the same things here! Each day, different behavioural enrichment is placed in the exhibit, ranging from snow mounds/sculptures, mirrors, bridges, music, sprinklers, bubbles and more! Behavioural enrichment is very important because it allows the birds to display their natural behaviours and stimulate their brain, which makes for a happy and healthy penguin!

Dive in to see our cheeky penguins today!