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Daddy Cool at Belfast Zoo as our penguin chicks hatch

Date: 15 Jun 2017

Gentoo penguin chick

Our feathered friends are celebrating Father’s Day as nine gentoo penguin chicks have recently hatched.

With the arrival of the nine chicks, Belfast Zoo is now home to 37 gentoo penguins and two rockhopper penguins. Belfast Zoo has cared for penguins for many years and first became home to gentoo penguins in 1984. Since then the zoo has welcomed a number of chicks as part of the breeding programme for the species.

Senior keeper, Allan Galway, said “We are delighted to welcome the new chicks to the flock. The penguin breeding season starts in February when we install nest rings for the birds on their pebble beach. The male penguins then start to fill the nests with pebbles and stones. These are highly prized by the birds and are an important part of the courtship ritual, as males often obtain a mate by offering the female a nice pebble. Females lay up to two eggs in their nest and they are incubated by both parents for 30 to 40 days. The first eggs started to hatch a few weeks ago and since then nine chicks have appeared. The chicks are covered with fluffy and fuzzy down feathers for the first few weeks. As they get older they go through a molting phase to get their adult plumage.”

There are 17 species of penguin in the world and Belfast Zoo is home to gentoo and rockhopper penguins. All penguins are found in the Southern hemisphere. While most people associate penguins with the snow and ice environments of the Antarctic, gentoo penguins can also be found in the warmer climates of the Falklands, South Georgia, Kerguelen, Marion, Macquarie and other remote islands.

Gentoo penguins are protected by the Antarctic Treaty of 1959 and received near threatened status on the IUCN Red List in 2007. Their decline is due to water pollution, global warming, habitat loss and increased disturbance from human interference from tourism, over-fishing and illegal egg collection.

Zoo manager, Alyn Cairns, continues "Penguins are definitely a visitor favourite at Belfast Zoo, especially when they are making waves at the underwater viewing area. We have no doubt that our latest arrivals will be extremely popular. Why not call by this Father’s Day to visit the chicks and find out more about some of our other zoo ‘dads’, including Gugas the gorilla, Spook the Andean bear and Finn the Rothschild’s giraffe, at our feeding times and keeper talks which will be taking place throughout the day on Sunday 18 June.”

If you are potty about penguins, you can now get closer than ever before with our penguin experiences. You can find out more information or book your experience by calling 028 9077 6277 or email

A full schedule of feeding times takes place daily. Call by the penguin enclosure at 2.30pm to watch the penguins enjoying their 'fish suppers' and to see our little chicks.

Find out more about our penguins