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NYC's First Baby King Penguin Hatches at Central Park Zoo

By Julie Shapiro | February 17, 2015 11:42am
 A baby king penguin (left) is now on display at the Central Park Zoo.
A baby king penguin (left) is now on display at the Central Park Zoo.
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Julie Larsen Maher © WCS

MANHATTAN — The first baby king penguin ever to hatch in New York City is now on display at the Central Park Zoo.

The fluffy brown-feathered penguin hatched back in August and was sequestered with its parents for the past six months so zoo staff could monitor the baby's growth.

The young penguin, whose sex has not yet been determined, is healthy and recently rejoined the zoo's main penguin exhibit.

"This hatching is a wonderful accomplishment for our staff. It will be a treat to watch this penguin mature," said Craig Piper, director of the city's zoos for the Wildlife Conservation Society.

"This was the first year that the king penguin chicks were old enough to potentially produce a fertile egg and we’re thrilled that conditions proved right for them to incubate, hatch and care for the chick."

King penguins incubate their eggs using their feet rather than in a nest, tucking the egg "under a flap of skin called a brood pouch to keep it warm," the zoo said in a statement. The parents pass the egg back and forth, caring for it together during the 53 to 62 days it takes before the baby hatches.

As the penguin grows, it will lose its puffy brown feathers and will sprout the sleek black, white and orange feathers that characterize adult king penguins, zoo officials said.

In the wild, king penguins live on the Falkland Islands and other islands near Antarctica. The Central Park Zoo mimics those conditions by carefully regulating the temperature and lighting of the exhibit, to prompt the zoo's penguins to mate at certain times of year.

The Central Park Zoo now has seven king penguins on display, as well as several dozen gentoo, chinstrap and rockhopper penguins. None of the species are endangered, but they are threatened by global warming and too much fishing in their natural habitat, the zoo said.

The Central Park Zoo is in the southeast corner of the park, near East 64th Street. Check the zoo's website for the schedule of penguin feedings.