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Meet Nia, First Magellanic Penguin Chick Bred at Shedd Aquarium Gets a Name

As Younger Birds Enter Reproductive Maturity, the Aquarium Expects More Chicks in the Future

October 10, 2018

Close up of magellanic penguin chick, Nia, looking left.

A magellanic penguin chic, Nia, stands alone on a rocks with her arms slightly out at her sides.

Magellanic penguin chick Nia swims with her parents, still covered in downy baby feathers.

Shedd Aquarium announced today that the first Magellanic penguin chick (Spheniscus magellanicus) bred at the aquarium, which hatched on Mother’s Day weekend, is a female. At a regular check up with the aquarium’s veterinary team, a blood test determined the sex and showed that she has been hitting all the major milestones. Shortly after, the aquarium hosted a contest for staff to choose her name. Shedd volunteers, partners and staff came back with a resounding answer – Nia (NEE-ah)!

The name is derived from Patagonia, a region located at the southern end of South America where the species is native. Other name choices includeded Loma and Rossi, also derived from areas in South America within the species’ range.

Shedd is home to two species of penguins, Magellanic and rockhopper (Eudyptes chrysocome). The aquarium’s rockhopper population is much older and has been prolific in producing and rearing chicks in the past, including most recently Diego in 2015 and Ruggles in 2013. The aquarium’s Magellanic penguins are much younger, meaning some are just now reaching reproductive maturity. As the penguins become mature, it’s likely the Shedd will see more Magellanic chicks in the future. And Chicago may have an active role in choosing their names!

“It’s an exciting time for the penguin colonies at the aquarium,” said Lana Vanagasem, manager of penguins and otters at Shedd Aquarium. “While our Magellanics are maturing and beginning to pair off and breed, some of our rockhoppers are living to ages we’ve never seen before. As a caretaker, both situations present their own sets of challenges and rewarding moments.”

As for Nia, guests at the aquarium can still point her out by her feathers, which are not quite as dark yet as the adult Magellanics in Shedd’s Polar Play Zone habitat.