Sunday, April 01, 2007

Aquarium Life: Introducing Howard

Now that sufficient time has passed, I can tell you all about Howard. Since a picture is a far better introduction, here he is:

Howard, Approx. 10 Weeks Old

Yes, that is a genuine (almost) baby penguin you are looking at there. Actually, Howard is on the verge of becoming a juvenile penguin (where they become old enough to lose their baby down and get their new feathers). You can see Howard still has a bit of his baby fuzz left, but only on the top of his head.

At this point Howard is just about adult size. Indeed, he is the largest (and fattest) juvenile penguin I have ever had the privilege of helping to raise. You can't tell in this picture, but Howard's flippers (wings) and feet are proportionally larger than his body. Penguins at this age always have some more growing to do. Howard is no exception.

Here's a picture of Howard at a little over five weeks:

Howard about to be weighed and fed for his afternoon feed

You can see Howard still has all his baby down in that picture. Also, to give you context about sizes: Howard is now just about adult size, that is he comes up to my knee.

Baby penguins are notoriously cute and smelly from birth to about five weeks because they have been fed regurgitated fish from their parents. As time goes on, they are given more whole fish which cuts down on the smell.

As you can see from the top picture Howard is a lovely shade of blue/grey. When juveniles lose their baby down, they start out with this coloration. After about a year and a half or so, they molt and get their adult coloration (tuxedos).

Howard is generally a sweet bird, but he's properly defensive and wary when he needs to be. He started out nervous around me and trying to bite me here and there. Last Saturday, I spent some time with him and we had a long talk. We're much friendlier now. Overall, his being defensive is a very good thing because when he finally gets introduced to the main display and the adults, they are going to kick the crap out him to be sure he knows his place in the pecking order. This is not something to worry about. Howard can bite really hard when he wants to and seems to be able to stand his ground with no problems.

We may or may not have more baby penguins in the hopper. Time will tell.

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