27 February 2012

Our rockhopper penguins are moulting! But what does it mean?

Hayley McLellan
Before ...

Two Oceans Aquarium Senior Bird Trainer Hayley McLellan sheds light on moulting. Our rockhopper penguins are currently undergoing the change.

Once a year our rockhopper penguins experience a moulting period of about four weeks. When a bird moults, it replace its entire set of feathers. Think of it this way: we change our clothes daily, but they only change theirs twice a year!

To moult can only be an uncomfortable process. Imagine: you need to gain an immense amount of weight in preparation for what is to follow – only to have your appetite fade away after that; you do not want to move an inch or eat during moulting; swimming is a no-no as you have no protection against becoming saturated (and rockies in the wild naturally spend about 85% of their lives in the ocean…). You experience a prickling sensation over every part of your body as the new feathers begin to pin and push out the old to make way…

Just the thought is upsetting to me!

Still before ...

Following the moult they will have a few days of continued low appetite, and then watch out: feed sessions turns wild! OK, that may be a slight exaggeration, but it does become a bit more exciting for our guests to observe.

The point I am trying to make is that, should you visit them any time soon, you need not be concerned at their appearance. It is all happening as it should. Our three bachelor boys – Hopper, Nikki and Bubbles – have completed their moult and are looking dashing in their new attire.

Teddy, Wallace, Roxy and Grommet are still hiding in the shadows of the nesting area while they patiently wait out this process.
Working with the rockhoppers every day is a true treat and to see them through their various annual stages is quite special. This little group of salty characters never fail to brighten my day at work here at the Two Oceans Aquarium!

Do come visit them soon, I’ll forgive you should you stifle a chuckle…

And after: the gorgeous finished product

Penguin Encounters

We’ve put our Penguin Encounters on hold until the rockies are comfortable again. We’ll re-open bookings after 17 March.

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