Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Extra long moult for our Penguins

Moulting is a natural phenomenon for Penguins that takes place once a year after breeding.  It is a physiologically stressful time for Penguins during which a great deal of energy is expended in the regeneration of new feathers.
According to documented research, the average duration of a Penguin moult in the wild is about 17 days.  In captivity, however, the duration is often much longer.  Our Humboldts Penguins (Spheniscus humboldti) normally take around 8 weeks to complete their annual moult – starting in early June and finishing late July/early August.  However this year the moulting process is taking a lot longer. 

It is thought that moulting in Penguins is triggered by a depletion in hormone levels after breeding as well as being stimulated by longer daylight/sunlight hours.  We believe that as a result of this year’s very grey, cool, cloudy summer to-date there has been insufficient external sunlight for the moulting to progress within its normal time-frame.  We’re not aware of any research papers to verify this theory but it would seem to be a logical conclusion!

So, come on summer, come on!  Our Humboldt Penguins always look so smart in their new plumage once their moult is over – yet another good reason for the Jet Stream Current to move away from our shores and allow the real summer sun to shine through!

Images taken this week at Seaview Wildlife Encounter.

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