Newly hatched penguin chicks pack personality
Little Guy's tiny black eyelids grew heavy after his 11th smelt. Big brother Tribby managed to gulp down 16 of the small fish before he, too, conked out in his handler's lap.
"Oh, yeah, he's out," said Chris Gaus, lead penguin trainer at the National Aviary in the North Side, as Tribby's head fell on his chest. "All right, buddy. Back to bed."
The aviary welcomed two new family members: a pair of African penguins hatched here last month.
Trib Total Media, which sponsors the aviary's Penguin Point exhibition, won naming rights for Tribby, hatched Feb. 26. The second, unnamed chick emerged from his egg on Feb. 29; aviary staff for now call him Little Guy.
The first penguin chicks to hatch at the aviary, they already show personality, said Steve Sarro, director of animal programs.
"They're both a little feisty -- a little attitude, and very inquisitive," Sarro said. "Tribby is very calm. The second one is a little bit younger, and he's just trying to figure out what's going on."
Tribby and Little Guy spent three weeks with mom, Bette, and dad, Sidney, named for Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby. The babies live in a cooling incubator in Sarro's office, where staff members hand-feed them three times a day.
"It's always a blast hand-raising chicks," Sarro said. "We have them sit on our laps; we have people come over and interact with them. That helps them (learn) their job in education, to be an ambassador for the wild."
The global wild breeding penguin population has dwindled to fewer than 50,000, down from about 1 million less than a century ago, Sarro said. The birds are considered an endangered species.
Several factors are killing penguins, including oil pollution, commercial over-fishing, human disturbance and climate change, Sarro said. Some researchers predict that unless changes occur, wild penguins will die off completely in 15 years, he said.
"We're very good at breeding them in captivity," Sarro said. "But they should be in the wild."
Trib Total Media's chief operating officer, Jennifer Bertetto, an aviary board member, said the company wanted to get involved with Penguin Point -- and with Tribby -- because it believes in the aviary's message of "conservation and education."
People can see the newborns for the first time on Friday night during a ticketed event at the aviary. Starting March 31, they will appear at Penguin Point twice daily, at 11 a.m and 2:30 p.m. They'll enter the exhibit permanently at the end of summer.
The chicks weigh about 2 pounds each, and likely will triple or quadruple that weight.
They're still a bit unsteady. Adults stand on their legs and tuck their wings into their sides, but Tribby and Little Guy can manage only brief waddling before collapsing onto crumpled wings.
Name the 'little guy'
To bid in an online auction to name the chick now being called 'Little Guy,' visit www.aviary.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Apollo-Ridge Education Foundation donates $12,000 to revamping middle school library
- WPIAL seniors embrace final home game at Penn State
- Comeau’s hat trick leads Penguins; Crosby reaches career points
- Fatal crash closes Flight 93 chapel in Somerset County
- Amusement parks fight off home entertainment threat
- Protesters won’t be thanking Wal-Mart
- Pregnant woman struck by van in North Side dies; doctors save baby
- Defying the odds makes this Thanksgiving particularly poignant
- Steelers’ backups Archer, Harris ready to run
- Pitt plays best game of the season; routs Kansas State
- Police on hunt for suspects in unrelated Penn Township, Manor cases