Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Dippy and the colony of Humboldts in midst of annual moult

Dippy, our now infamous Head Honcho Humboldt Penguin (above), is looking rather threadbare at the moment - he and the rest of the colony are going through their annual moult. The images above show the 'tatty look' of this 'catastrophic moult' - the Penguins lose all their feathers and re-grow them again over a period of a few weeks in the middle of summer. In mid summer Anchovies, the Penguins' main prey (in Peru), are at their most abundant.

Humboldt Penguins perform their annual moult at the end of the breeding season each year. In the wild (off the West Coast of Chile and Peru) the visible part of the moult process occurs when the birds remain on land and usually takes about two weeks. During this time they eat very little and lose about 30% of their body weight. In captivity they eat less than usual but the drop in weight is less extreme. In the wild the moult is followed by a 2-3 week period at sea where the Penguins regain condition before returning to the colony in preparation for breeding.

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