Installed in one of the purpose-built nest-boxes at the Kaikōura colony, our sneaky infra-red Penguin Cam allows us to get close to the locals, without them even knowing we’re there…
Here are some highlights:
This video shows Gandalf incubating one egg and a newly-born chick, Cardamom. When little blue chicks hatch they cannot thermoregulate for themselves, so the parents have to do that for them. The adults will take turns either sitting on the chicks to keep them warm, or giving them some space to let them cool down!
Here we see Gandalf’s partner Ma’a Nonu (yep, this Nonu is a girl!) grooming Cayenne (the egg in the previous video!).
Grooming is common across many animal species, with the main purpose being to keep the insulating layer free of mites/parasites but also clean so it can do its job and keep the animal warm. The process also helps to strengthen and maintain social bonds, and chicks need help keeping their feathers clean, so the adults step in!
When they are born little blue chicks weigh a tiny 40-50 grams, so their early days are spent eating and sleeping to build up their strength and size.
In the first month of their lives, one adult will remain with the chicks during the day whilst the other ventures out into the ocean to forage for food. This is known as the guard-phase. When the chicks are a bit bigger, it requires both adults to forage in order to bring back sufficient food. But during this phase, the chicks are still very vulnerable and will not leave the nest.
The other side to gaining strength is eating, and as you can see the chicks have no problem in harassing their parents when it comes to feeding time.
Feeding happens every night. The adults spend the day at sea catching small fish, squid and crustaceans and when they get back to the nest they regurgitate some of this food (now partially digested) into their chick’s wide open beak.
In fact the chicks eat so much that they will eventually grow larger than their parents, although they will lose this weight again just before they fledge and leave the nest. The parents will actually stop feeding the chicks when they are ready to fledge, and it is the chick’s hunger that will force them to leave the safety of the nest once and for all, and go out to hunt for themselves.