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Second African penguin chick hatches at National Aviary

| Friday, Dec. 19, 2014, 2:06 p.m.

National Aviary staffers confirmed the second of two African penguin chicks was born Thursday, right on schedule.

A newly installed high-resolution camera, hosted live at triblive.com/babypenguins , caught the baby's first moments with its sibling, born Monday. The feed has logged more than 109,000 views since it went live last week.

Specialists said they first spotted the second chick on the nest cam about 10:15 a.m. Friday.

Recorded footage shows the first scenes of penguin father Sidney opening his beak for a fuzzy headed, fast-moving chick about the size of a plum. Early Friday, the same vantage point caught a quick glimpse of a second small beak poking through the leaves toward its parents in search of food.

When African penguin chicks hatch, they can be notoriously tough to spot. By now, the first chick is a bit bigger than its new sibling and can be regularly spotted on the cam being fed by its parents.

Penguin chicks are born with a yolk sac in their abdomens, which provides nutrition. Once its yolk sac dissolves, usually within 24 to 36 hours, an African penguin chick needs to be fed more often than newborn humans, as often as once every hour or two.

The parents deposit partially digested fish directly into the hatchling's mouths, sometimes placing their open beaks completely over the chick's tiny heads.

Veterinarians will step in just before the new year to check each chick's eyes, mouth, lungs, heart and body. Each then will be weighed quickly and placed back in the nest. The entire exam happens in just a couple of minutes to ensure the chicks don't get cold and to minimize any stress to the parents.

The sex of African penguins can be determined only by DNA, so a feather sample will be collected during their medical exam and sent for 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. Usually staffers offer naming rights by auction or in honor of a notable person, spokeswoman Robin Weber said.

The aviary's Penguin Point exhibit is home to 17 African Penguins; these two make it 19. African penguins are a critically endangered species, with fewer than 20,000 remaining in the wild.

Megan Harris is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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