Penguin Chicks Receive First Medical Exam



December 30, 2014 (Pittsburgh, PA) – Two penguin chicks at the National Aviary, which have been watched by thousands via a high resolution nest cam in recent weeks, received their first medical exams today and were deemed to be in excellent health. The exam was conducted by the National Aviary’s Director of Veterinary Medicine, Dr. Pilar Fish, and included checks of each chick’s eyes, mouth, lungs, heart, body and weight. The entire exam happened in just a few minutes time to ensure the chicks didn’t get cold and to minimize any stress to the penguin parents.

During the exam, a feather sample was also collected for each chick. The sex of African Penguins cannot be determined by their appearance, but only through DNA testing.  Feathers will be sent to a lab 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, though it will likely involve the public in some way.

The chicks are now 15 and 12 days old respectively. The first chick, hatched on December 15, today weighed 458 grams (just over 1 pound). The second chick, hatched December 18, weighed 317 grams. The larger chick’s body today is about the size of a large orange.

When African Penguin chicks hatch, they are just larger than a golf ball in size and weigh less than a quarter of a pound. But, like many baby birds, African Penguin chicks grow quickly. They will double, or even triple their weight week by week.  By the time they reach full size, which takes about eight weeks, they have grown 2000%, from the weight of a half a stick of butter to that of a half a gallon of milk.

A high-definition infrared camera is providing an intimate view inside the penguin’s nesting cave. The live video feed will end next week Thursday, January 8, when the penguin chicks will be moved to the National Aviary’s Avian Care Center to be hand-reared by National Aviary staff and placed on view for visitors. This timing allows the penguin chicks to remain in the nest for the first three to four critical weeks, until just before they would naturally be ready to leave the nest on their own.  Moving to the Avian Care Center protects this endangered species from the perils of the exhibit, including aggression from other penguins and difficulty negotiating the steep cliffs at the water’s edge. In addition, hand rearing ensures they will be ready to fulfill their future roles as ambassadors for their species in the National Aviary’s educational and interactive programs.

The National Aviary’s Penguin Point exhibit is home to 17 African Penguins; these two make numbers 18 and 19. African Penguins are a critically endangered species, with less than 20,000 remaining the wild. As part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums' (AZA) Species Survival Plan (SSP), the National Aviary’s penguins are part of an important breeding program to ensure a healthy population of African Penguins for future generations.

The African Penguin nest camera was conceived, planned and installed in just 10 days’ time, launching to the public on Friday, December 12. The camera and installation were provided by M&P Security Solutions, LLC.

The public is invited to watch the cam at, and visitors to the National Aviary can see the cave and catch glimpses of parents Sidney and Bette. Due to the depth of the cave, small size of the chicks, and protective nature of the parents, the chicks can only be seen from the camera until they leave the nest January 8. The National Aviary has created a baby penguin gift registry to help support the penguins’ care. Learn more and get updates on their growth at or like the National Aviary on Facebook.


About the National Aviary

The National Aviary is America’s only independent indoor nonprofit zoo dedicated exclusively to birds. Located in West Park on Pittsburgh’s historic North Side, the National Aviary’s diverse collection comprises 500 birds representing more than 150 species from around the world, many of them threatened or endangered in the wild. The National Aviary’s large walk-through exhibits create an intimate, up-close interaction between visitors and free-flying birds, including opportunities to hand-feed and to meet many species rarely found in zoos anywhere else in the world. Hours of operation are 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. daily. For admission rates and more information visit

Robin Weber
Director of Marketing & Communications
Office: 412-258-9435
Mobile: 412-215-9199