Just as the summer holidays are getting into full swing, so the Humboldt penguins’ annual moult does too. As you visit the penguin pool over the next few weeks you will see some very plump and scruffy looking penguins waddling about. This is a natural part of their life-cycle which occurs after breeding season.
Being an aquatic bird, they must change all their feathers at once to ensure that they remain well insulated and able to swim efficiently when they are hunting. A few weeks before they moult the penguins experience a huge increase in appetite (which is the best time to book a ‘Meet the Penguins’ Feeding Experience, as this is when you’ll really get a good crowd around the fish bucket).
The reason for this increase in appetite is to ensure they have enough body fat to live off for up to 10 days, as they are unable to enter the water to hunt while they are moulting. Their feathers lose their waterproofing qualities during this time. Geoff is currently in the lead, having already started losing big chunks of feathers, which are being pushed out by the new ones growing underneath. By the time August arrives he will be sporting brand new pristine plumage and be the envy of the rest of the colony!
Many of the other residents of the Bird Garden are nesting and raising young themselves, but it is not only the birds who have been carrying out parental duties – one of the keepers, Lisa has been working day and night hand raising two Brown Lory chicks for the past month. This is because their parents, Charlie and Peppermint (who can be seen by the Mini-beast Trail, near the flamingos) had been trying to feed them feathers and other unsuitable items.
You can follow @HarewoodHouse on social media for some behind the scenes footage of these two new noisy additions, and make sure to follow the Bird Garden activities on #TakeoverTuesday.