Open 9 am - 5 pm

Rockhopper Penguin Chick Takes First Swim and Joins the Colony at Shedd

This Year’s Hatchling Tested the Waters with the Penguin Colony at the Aquarium

October 19, 2023

A rockhopper penguin chick flaps its wings during a social encounter with an adult rockhopper.

Photo by: ©Shedd Aquarium/Brenna Hernandez

Shedd Aquarium’s newest rockhopper penguin, hatched in June, has officially joined the full penguin colony. After fledging fluffy feathers for sleek, waterproof ones, the chick was ready for its first swim. Once successfully testing the water behind the scenes in smaller habitats, the chick had its first swim with the full colony in the public-facing exhibit in Polar Play Zone.

In addition to these important milestones, the newest arrival has grown in size and is between 1-1.5 feet tall, and weighs a little over 4 pounds. Now very close in appearance to an adult rockhopper penguin, one way to distinguish the chick from the full-grown adult rockhopper penguins is by looking for the distinctive yellow feathers, or lack thereof. Currently, the chick only has yellow eyebrow feathers, while the longer yellow crested feathers will only grow after the first regular molt at around a year old.

The chick is also curious about the new surroundings and has been exploring the different enrichment activities the animal care team offers the birds. Enrichment includes any activity that provides physical or mental stimulation for the penguins, like offering bubbles, dangling objects that can be pulled with a beak, or items to be picked up and moved around like small pieces of ice, within the penguins’ environment. The chick also interacts comfortably with the staff, participating in staff-led feeding opportunities with the colony, among other opt-in opportunities to spend time with the animal care team.

Guests can plan a visit to the aquarium to see the rockhopper chick and the rest of the penguin colony. Additionally, for a more in-depth opportunity, guests can attend an onsite penguin encounter to come face-to-face with Magellanic penguins. The next milestone will be determining the sex of the chick, at which time the aquarium will share any potential naming plans for the bird.

BACKGROUND: The rockhopper chick hatched on Thursday, June 15 – the first for the species in eight years at the aquarium. Guests may recognize the chick’s parents, Edward and Annie, two penguins that rose to stardom following Shedd’s penguin field trip viral videos and were the subject of their own subsequent children’s book. The chick is also related to local celebrity Wellington – the chick’s grandfather. The elder penguin was also a viral star during the height of the pandemic – roaming the guest-less halls of a temporarily closed Shedd.

Rockhopper penguins (Eudyptes chrysocome) are one of two penguin species cared for at Shedd, in addition to Magellanic penguins (Spheniscus magellanicus). The aquarium has succeeded in breeding both species in the past but has emphasized rockhopper breeding this year, as that species is underrepresented in zoos and aquariums. Shedd also actively contributes to penguin research and conservation efforts globally, applying animal care expertise and scientific resources to better understand how penguins in the wild are being impacted by climate change.

VISUALS: A high-resolution video of the penguin chick’s first swim in the guest-facing habitat alongside the other penguins, as well as behind-the-scenes photos of the chick, are available for download below:

Video credit: ©Shedd Aquarium/Sam Cejtin

Photo credit: ©Shedd Aquarium/Brenna Hernandez