Thursday, June 17, 2010

Many People Ask: What does porpoising mean?

Our rockhoppers penguins can do some amazing things. They are excellent jumpers. In fact, they can even jump more than foot straight up from a standing position--a skill they use when navigating their rocky island here or craggy shorelines in the wild.

Falkland II swimming

Our rockhoppers are also very good swimmers. Sometimes they get on a roll and burst out of the water for a second or two. We call this behavior porpoising because it resembles a porpoise's swimming behavior. Take a look!

In the wild, penguins sometimes porpoise to get away from predators, or to take a look at their surroundings. Here at the Aquarium, away from natural predators, they often porpoise after their morning meal while we're cleaning the island and all the birds are in the water.

Come by the Aquarium to watch the morning feeding every day at 9 a.m. and maybe you'll get to see these acrobatic birds! And if you're curious about what it takes to clean up after these penguins, stick around. We'll be posting about cleaning the exhibit very soon!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Staying Cool

Out of the 18 species of penguins only two of them live around Antarctica year round. Most penguin species live in temperate and even tropical climates. These penguins need to be able to stay warm in the cold ocean water, but they also need a way to stay cool to avoid overheating.

First, penguins have the ability to individually raise and lower each of their feathers, releasing trapped body heat.

Raising feathers

You may see our rockhopper penguins standing with either both wings or one wing sticking straight out, this exposes the highly vascularized underside of the wings releasing heat and cooling the blood.

Rockhopper cooling off with both wings outstretched

Rockhopper with one wing outstretched

African penguins have a patch of bare skin with no feathers around their eyes. This is called a heat window. This bare skin along with their bare feet allows for heat to escape. As the penguin gets warm the heat window will flush or become vibrant pink.

The heat window is the bare patch of skin above and in front of this African penguin's eye

When all else fails, standing in front of the air conditioner will cool you off, like our rockhopper penguins. The Rockhopper Island AC vents provide cool air to the rockhopper penguins.

Rockhopper penguin with wings outstretched

- Andrea

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

This penguin is happy to see you!

Hi, and thanks for checking out the New England Aquarium's Penguin Blog!

As part of the staff who cares for our little blue, African and rockhopper penguins, I'm really excited about this summer's Penguin Power program because our team gets to share neat and interesting facts about our favorite birds — penguins. Regular posts on this blog will answer surprising questions, like "Do penguins have knees?" We'll also take you behind the scenes to meet some of our birds, like a little blue penguin named Lion and an African penguin named Robben. Make sure to check back often. We have tons of videos, pictures, factoids and tid-bits about life at the Aquarium's Penguin Colony coming your way this summer!

First up, I'd like to introduce you to one of our Penguin Pals: Fuego II.

Fuego is a 2-year-old southern rockhopper penguin and he came to the Aquarium in January of 2008. He is named after a group of islands at the southernmost tip of South America in Argentina called Tierra del Fuego (which means "land of fire" in Spanish). Many of the islands in this archipelago are breeding islands for southern rockhoppers.

View Larger Map

Fuego is pretty excited about this summer's theme program, too!

In all seriousness, Fuego is doing a behavior that we affectionately call "the happy dance." It's unclear exactly why they do this, maybe to attract mates or maybe just because it's fun. Pop by the Aquarium sometime and you might be able to see Fuego do his happy dance in person!

- Andrea