May 2, 2022
Meet Mitchell! Part 1
- as seen by -Meagan Fontanez
At the Wildlife Conservation Society’s New York Aquarium, our 2022 New Year’s festivities got off to an early start. On December 31, 2021, the Aquarium’s Sea Cliffs welcomed the newest addition to our African penguin (Spheniscus demersus) colony – Mitchell.
While the weather outside in December may indeed be frightful, our penguins at the Aquarium actually lay the bulk of their eggs during the winter, typically from November to April. Much like in their natural habitat, our penguins take turns with their mates incubating an egg. In the wild, one parent stays with the egg while the other swims out to sea to hunt a variety of fish species including sardines, anchovies, and squid.
We see these same behaviors at the Aquarium. Like their wild counterparts, Mitchell’s parents swapped time incubating the egg and caring for the chick after hatching. At approximately one month of age, the Sea Cliffs keepers began to assist with raising Mitchell. This process allows our penguins to become accustomed to our presence so we can provide ongoing care.
Unlike many species where differentiating males from females is easy – with penguins, it is almost impossible. They do not differ in appearance. After a few months, a simple blood test allows us to determine the sex of the chick. While we might be unsure of the penguin’s sex until we can do a blood test, we definitely knew the perfect name for this chick. It is named after Stephanie Mitchell who was the primary penguin keeper at the Aquarium for 22 years before retiring last year.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Read Meet Mitchell! Part 2 here.