African Penguin Chicks

Penguin Chick Update!

The DNA test results are in- it’s a girl and a boy! Just like Sidney and Bette’s previous chicks, the penguin chicks that hatched in December 2014 include one female (chick #1) and one male (chick #2).

The chicks are almost fully grown. Their fuzzy, gray chick feathers have molted away and they are now sporting their black and white juvenile colors.

Too large to stay in the Avian Care Center window, the chicks are in an off exhibit area where they can stretch their wings and get used to being in water. However, visitors can still meet a penguin chick during the regularly scheduled Penguin Feedings each day. The chicks take turns meeting visitors up-close during the feedings and continue getting accustom to their life as an ambassador for their species.

The male penguin has been named "Happy." The female chick’s name has yet to be decided. Between February 24 and March 6, the National Aviary will host an online auction via eBay for naming the penguin chick. In addition to choosing the chick’s name, the winner of this auction will be invited to visit the National Aviary with a handful of guests to personally meet the female penguin chick, followed by a personal tour of the entire National Aviary. Learn more about the auction or place a bid!

Over the next few months Happy and his sister will continue to get used to water and life at the National Aviary. Please check back this spring for updates, videos of swimming lessons, and to find out the female chick’s name!

Growing Up

National Aviary visitors watched the penguin chicks sleep, snuggle, eat and received medical exams through the Avian Care Center window. Once the chicks were older and more accustom to people they began venturing out of the Care Center to meet visitors up-close.

On January 24, the penguin chicks left the Care Center for the first time and began making apperances during Penguin Feedings.

Visitors saw the chicks up-close, took pictures, asked questions and learned more about what is in-store for the newest members of the African Penguin colony.


Moving to the Avian Care Center

They grow up so fast! On the morning of January 6, 2015, the penguin chicks were moved indoors to the National Aviary’s Avian Care Center. A check-up by our vet confirmed that both chicks are doing well. The chicks will be hand-reared by National Aviary staff and make their public debut on January 8. But don’t worry, we will continue to post pictures, videos, and updates to this page capturing every adorable moment.

The National Aviary is humbled by the international attention and outpouring of support the nest cam has inspired. The penguin nest cam is now turned off for the season, though we’d love to bring it back in future years!

Why the Early Move?

Our penguins are African Penguins; in the wild they live off the coast of South Africa, where average temperatures – and even extreme temperatures – are warmer than that of Pittsburgh. We are expecting single digit temperatures for a sustained period of time. The rest of penguin colony will remain on exhibit, but the chicks are more sensitive to the cold, so we moved them indoors as a precaution.

Why Does the National Aviary Hand-Raise African Penguin Chicks?

Moving to the Avian Care Center protects this endangered species from the perils of the exhibit, including not only the frigid temperatures unlike those of their native climate, but also aggression from other penguins and difficulty negotiating the steep cliffs at the water’s edge in Penguin Point. Hand rearing also ensures they will be ready to fulfill their very important future role as ambassadors for their species in the National Aviary’s educational and interactive programs.

Where Are the Chicks Now?

Over the next few days in the Avian Care Center, the chicks will acclimate to their new home and life with National Aviary staff by their sides.  They will be ready for visitors when they make their public debut on Thursday, January 8.

Penguin Chicks' First Checkup

The African Penguin chicks are now two weeks old (15 and 12 days old respectively) and on December 31 they received their first medical exams!Chick #2

The exam was conducted by the National Aviary’s Director of Veterinary Medicine, Dr. Pilar Fish, and included checks of each chick's  eyes, mouth, lungs, heart, body and weight. The exam happened in just a few minutes’ time to ensure the chicks didn’t get cold and to minimize any stress to the penguin parents.

The oldest chick today weighed 458 grams (just over 1 pound) and is about the size of a large apple. The second chick, weighed 317 grams. Both chicks were deemed to be in excellent health.

During the exam, a feather sample was also collected for each chick. The sex of African Penguins cannot be determined by sight, only through DNA testing.  Feathers will be sent to a lab for Chick #1 getting weighed analysis; it will be a few weeks before results are known.

The National Aviary has not yet decided how or when it will name the new penguins, though it will likely involve the public in some way.

Keep watching to see the chicks continue to grow.



 Checking Chick #2's mouth     Chick #1 waiting to go back in the nest

 Checking Chick #1's heart


The New Chicks' Story

This fall, African Penguins, Sidney and Bette began making a nest in this little cave in Penguin Point.

For days, observant visitors watched as the penguins carried small rocks in their beaks across the exhibit and disappeared into the cave.  

Then on November 11th National Aviary staff confirmed Sidney and Bette had laid a clutch of eggs. Over the next several weeks the soon to be parents and their nest were carefully observed. In order to confirm the fertility of the eggs, Aviary staff briefly removed them from the nest for candling. Candling an egg is the process of holding it up to a bright light to see the growth and development of the embryo inside.    

Aviary staff expected to the eggs to hatch between December 15 - 18.

On December 12, the National Aviary installed a high resolution infrared penguin nest cam to give the public an intimate view inside the nesting cave. The camera and installation services were generously donated by M&P Security Solutions, Inc., a veteran-owned business serving the Greater Pittsburgh Area. The public were invited to watch the nest online at The entire project was initiated and implemented in just 10 days and not a moment too soon! 


 The new camera hanging over Penguin Point and a view inside the nest.

Right on time, chick #1 hatched Monday, December 15. That morning one of the National Aviary’s penguin specialists noticed unusual movement on the camera. Shortly before noon, he heard what sounded like a chick. By the afternoon he was able to check the nest and get visual confirmation. 

Over the next few days the penguin parents continued to incubate the second egg, simultaneously keeping the first chick warm and well fed.

On December 18, the second egg hatched. However, National Aviary staff did not want to disrupt the new family. They waited until the received visual confirmation of the new chick via the nest camera. Based on this image, Aviary staff confirmed the hatching at 10:13 a.m. Friday, December 19.


The parents of our new African Penguin chicks, Sidney and Bette, have been together at the National Aviary since the summer of 2010. 

Here are photos of the proud parents: