Little chick makes big impression: King penguins welcome new baby

The baby boom at Hellabrunn Zoo continues: among the recent births is a king penguin chick hatched in the Polar World. This is the first time since 2014 that a baby penguin was born to the largest species of penguin at Hellabrunn Zoo.

Copyright: Tierpark Hellabrunn / Marc Müller

Copyright: Tierpark Hellabrunn / Marc Müller

Copyright: Tierpark Hellabrunn / Marc Müller

Copyright: Tierpark Hellabrunn / Marc Müller

Although the little king penguin chick still spends most of the time hidden from view, you can always hear it. The hatchling emits a high-pitched whistling sound that is easily distinguishable from the sound of the adult penguins and clearly audible to visitors to the enclosure. Those with a little patience may even catch a glimpse of the small, grey-brown chick. Since emerging from its egg in mid-September, the hatchling spends most of its time hidden under a pouch of belly skin of either mum or dad - it is after all warm and safe there.


King penguins carry both the egg and the subsequent chick around by wedging them between their feet and a pouch of belly skin known as the brood pouch, ensuring the offspring is completely protected. During this period, both parents take turns incubating the egg and then caring for the chick - while one parent cares for the offspring, the other forages for food.


It took exactly 54 days for the youngest member of Hellbarunn’s king penguin family to hatch out of the egg. "For the first four or five days, the little chick could hardly be seen," says Anja Waldinger. "Since then it has possible to observe how the parents feed their young and watch the chick take its first tentative steps." During the first weeks and months, the little chick will be fed regurgitated fish by its parents. With a little luck, visitors may even be able to witness the parents changing shifts guarding the hatchling, with mum passing the chick to dad or vice versa.


The guard phase last about 30 to 40 days, until the little penguin is able to independently regulate its body temperature outside the brood pouch, and by which time it will have grown a dense, warm downy plumage. The chick will then display a brown-grey coat until the age of about 10 months before it develops adult plumage and become independent of its parents. With regard to the sex, it will take several months before it can be determined whether the little chick is male or female: "Until then we’ll leave all the parenting to the parents," adds Anja Waldinger.

Click the link to see a video of the chick with its parents:

The king penguin is one of the most widely known of the 17 existing species of penguins, second in size only to the emperor penguin. Both species belong to the genus Aptenodytes. King penguins are found in the wild on offshore islands around Antarctic.


Hellabrunn Zoo is home to a variety of penguin species: Gentoo penguins, king penguins and rockhopper penguins share an enclosure in the Polar World, which was renovated in 2013. Facilities in the enclosure include an ice maker and a ca. 50 m swim course. The highly endangered Humboldt penguins have been residing in a separate enclosure since 2011.