Changing Planet

Spring is the Season of Love! Penguin Nesting and Pairing Begins

In honor of World Penguin Day, Shedd Aquarium is sharing a special look inside the penguin habitat during nesting season!

Spring is here and love is in the air. For Shedd Aquarium’s rockhopper and Magellanic penguins, the arrival of spring marks the arrival of another season; nesting season. During the month of April, the two penguin species that reside at Shedd Aquarium will start building their nests for mating.

During the several weeks-long process, the penguins will explore the exhibit searching for the best stone and sturdy sticks. (Photo Credit: ©Shedd Aquarium/Brenna Hernandez)

One may wonder, how does building a nest help prepare the penguins for mating season? The penguins will use the sticks and rocks that have been placed in the habitat to create a love nest for pairing up and begin to find mates. The male penguins will pursue the perfect rock to attract a female mate, and the birds will build their nests in a variety of sizes.

Penguin nesting rituals have occurred at the aquarium since 1994 and mark an exciting time for staff and visitors alike. This is not an easy process, however. Shedd’s animal care experts have to prepare in advance for this spring season of penguin romance. The team adapts the light cycle and scatters twigs and stones throughout the habitat to create natural mating environment. This signals to the penguins that the weeks-long process of nest building is about to begin. Finally, once the perfect nest is built, mating will ensue and eggs will be on the way.

The nesting period allows Shedd guests to peek in a penguin’s life-cycle as they carry out the natural behavior of nest building and pairing. (Photo Credit: ©Shedd Aquarium/Brenna Hernandez)
The nesting period allows Shedd guests to peek in a penguin’s life-cycle as they carry out the natural behavior of nest building and pairing. (Photo Credit: ©Shedd Aquarium/Brenna Hernandez)

Although the nests are clearly visible, visitors might have a difficult time spotting the eggs. Penguins are vigilant about sitting on their eggs. Visitors can expect the eggs to be seen at the end of April into May, however.

Happy nesting!

The John G. Shedd Aquarium in Chicago sparks compassion, curiosity and conservation for the aquatic animal world. Home to 32,000 aquatic animals representing 1,500 species of fishes, reptiles, amphibians, invertebrates, birds and mammals from waters around the globe, Shedd is a recognized leader in animal care, conservation education and research. An accredited member of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) and the first U.S. aquarium to be awarded the Humane Conservation™ certification mark for the care and welfare of its animals by American Humane, the organization is an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institute, and is supported by the people of Chicago, the State of Illinois and the Chicago Park District. www.sheddaquarium.org

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