Update from ‘Emilio,’ May penguin chick

The zoo’s baby penguin loves to swim! It’s been four months since the Rosamond Gifford Zoo’s youngest Humboldt penguin joined the rest of the colony in the Penguin Coast exhibit, and he still stands out from the crowd. That’s because Emilio is the only penguin at the zoo who retains juvenile plumage – so he’s the only one without the distinctive black stripe across the upper chest that characterizes Humboldt penguins.

Emilio hatched at the zoo May 5, and his name was chosen by voters in an online poll. Some years, the zoo has several baby penguins hatch, but this year Emilio was the sole hatchling. He immediately gained many fans who requested updates for the nearly three months he was off exhibit being cared for by his parents, Mario and Montaña.

By August, Emilio was weaned and had grown his waterproof feathers, allowing his keepers to introduce him to swimming in a large tub of water off exhibit. He learned fast, and since going on exhibit in mid-August, he is usually one of the last birds out of the water at feeding time!

Here are a few facts about Emilio:

Height and weight: As a new hatchling, he weighed 68 grams (or 1/7 th of a pound) and was about 3 inches long. Now he weights 4.4 kilograms – 10 pounds! – and stands 17 inches tall.

Favorite foods: Emilio is an excellent eater and readily consumes all three varieties of fish regularly offered at meal time – smelt, capelin and herring – although capelin seems to be his least favorite. He eats about a pound of fish per day!

Activities: Emilio has become a great swimmer and loves darting through the water at Penguin Coast. He is completely weaned from his parents and is very independent, often preferring to rest on the beach in his own space. His first friends this summer were Hugo, age 8, and Malia, who turns 2 in January, but he gets along well with everyone in the colony.

Appearance: Emilio’s juvenile plumage lends a silvery/gray coloration to his back feathers, which will remain until next summer, when he is expected to molt for the first time. Right now, he’s the only penguin in Syracuse with an all-white chest. After he molts, the new feathers that emerge on his back will change to the traditional tuxedo black of adult penguins, and he will develop a black stripe of feathers along the top of his chest. Once that happens, it may be easier to identify him by the red and yellow ID band on his right flipper.

Watch a video of Emilio swimming at youtube.com/watch?time_continue=2&v=FxhVhraIuWs.

– – – – –

(June 13, 2017) The votes are in, and ‘Emilio’ is the name of the Rosamond Gifford Zoo’s new Humboldt penguin chick.

The zoo held a week of online voting for the baby’s name, with 1,737 votes cast from June 2-10. The name Emilio, meaning “friendly” in Spanish, won overwhelmingly, capturing 538 votes, or 31 percent of the vote.

Gustavo, or “leader,” came in second with 363 votes or 21 percent, followed by Inigo, “fiery,” with 18 percent. Maximiliano, “greatest,” received 198 votes, or 11 percent; Franco, “honest,” received 183 votes, or 10 percent, and Vasco Nuñez de Balboa, the explorer who discovered Peru, received 138, or 8 percent.

Humboldt penguins are native to the Humboldt Current along the coast of Peru and Chile, so the zoo prefers names relating to their origins.

The new baby hatched on May 5 to parents Montaña and Mario. Montaña was born at the zoo in 2006, and Mario arrived from the Columbus Zoo in 2005.

The new hatchling is part of the zoo's ongoing participation in the Association of Zoos & Aquariums & Species Survival Plan for Humboldt penguins, whose population has been severely declining in the wild.

The zoo currently has a colony of 39 Humboldt penguins, and has hatched 54 chicks under the Species Survival Plan since 2006.

At six weeks old, Emilio now weighs 5 pounds and still spends most of his time in the nest burrow with at least one of his parents. In the next couple months, he will be gradually weaned from his parents before being introduced to the Penguin Coast exhibit.

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