Four African black-footed penguins join New York Aquarium

The new birds range from a few months old to a year and a half in age.  Photo Credit: Julie Larsen Maher © WCS

Four. Fuzzy. Baby. Penguins.

The new birds range from a few months old to a year and a half in age. 
The new birds range from a few months old to a year and a half in age.  Photo Credit: Newsday/Doug Kuntz

Four new African black-footed penguins have joined the flock at the New York Aquarium.

And you might just hear them before you see them.

The endangered aquatic flightless birds are known for their loud call that sounds like a donkey’s bray, earning them the dubious title of “jackass” penguins.

The baby birds live at the Aquarium's Sea Cliffs habitat in Coney Island.
The baby birds live at the Aquarium’s Sea Cliffs habitat in Coney Island. Photo Credit: Julie Larsen Maher © WCS

“They are really cool animals,” said Jon Forrest Dohlin, director of the New York Aquarium and vice president of the Wildlife Conservation Society. “It’s amazing that a relatively small bird can make that kind of noise.”

The penguins were hatched over the last year and a half in nest boxes that are out of the public view. The fluffy chicks are monitored and cared for by staffers while they develop their waterproof plumage.

The youngsters recently joined the colony of nearly 30 African black-footed penguins at the aquarium, which is in Coney Island.

Dohlin said the endangered penguins are found on the southern shores of South Africa “where they are really suffering some of the impacts of climate change.”

The penguins are being forced to swim farther off the shore to find the fish to feed themselves and young chicks waiting on the shore. Their nesting habitat is also increasingly being disturbed by humans and animal predators, such as cats and dogs, he said.

The Wildlife Conservation Society works with other institutions in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums to breed animals as part of the Species Survival Plan, to make sure there is a genetically diverse population.

The New York Aquarium's breeding program for the African black-footed penguin has successfully added four more chicks to its colony.
The New York Aquarium’s breeding program for the African black-footed penguin has successfully added four more chicks to its colony. Photo Credit: Julie Larsen Maher © WCS

Lisa L. Colangelo