The hatching season has begun at the Moscow Zoo. The first to have offspring were the Humboldt penguins and great cormorants.
“In the wild, most chicks hatch in spring or [early] summer when it is warm and food is available. At zoos, animals live in conditions that are comfortable for hatching and have enough food all year round, and so the breeding season can begin earlier,” Director General of the Moscow Zoo Svetlana Akulova said.
The four couples of Humboldt penguins who live in the Bird House in the zoo’s old section became parents over a month ago. The oldest nestling weighs 1.2 kg and the youngest 500 grams. They are covered with grey plumage, which differs dramatically from the black and white colours of adult penguins. The penguin chicks spend most of the day in their nests, which are rocky crevices covered with down. The parents feed their chicks and keep them warm.
“The penguin nestlings will leave their nests in mid-March, when visitors will be able to take a closer look at them. The young will learn to feed themselves at about the same time, swallowing small fish brought to them by the zoo keepers. Two- or three-month-old penguins will shed their thin coats of down and grow feathers that are suitable for swimming. The young penguins will have the adult colour pattern no sooner than in two years, after shedding their feathers several times,” Svetlana Akulova noted.
Visitors can see the two great cormorant chicks, which have lighter and fluffier plumage than adult birds, in the Birds and Butterflies pavilion in the new part of the zoo. The cormorant young have not left their nests yet, making shrill sounds to show that they are hungry. Both parents provide them with food during the nesting period.
In early April, the cormorant nestlings and their parents will move to a marsh in the open enclosure in the new part of the zoo, where they will learn to swim and dive. Cormorants are very good swimmers. They can dive into water without a single splash and chase fish to a depth of three or four metres, staying underwater for more than two minutes, which is long enough to catch fish.
Svetlana Akulova added that the great white (or rosy) pelicans and the Dalmatian pelicans have made nests in the warm Birds and Butterflies pavilion, but they are still fighting each other for the best place to have their young. Trying to impress each other, the pelicans loudly flap their wings, fluff up their feathers and otherwise demonstrate their superiority over rivals.
Mute and black swans, black geese, mandarin ducks and other water fowl have entered the courting period in the big pond in the old part of the zoo, to the joy of visitors.
More than 800 young animals were born at the Moscow Zoo in 2018, bringing the total collection to over 1,200 species and 10,500 individual animals. The most prolific were the birds (at 341 hatchlings) and the mammals (247 young animals). The reptiles were next in line with 68 youngsters, while the fish and amphibians contributed over 50.
The first offspring born at the Moscow Zoo in 2019 was a Mexican beaded lizard. It will be moved to the Terrarium pavilion in the zoo’s new section soon.