We have a new addition to our family to announce. For my birthday Stark adopted a penguin in Southern Patagonia. Meet Durden (appropriately named after Tyler Durden’s “power animal” in Fight Club). He is our beautiful baby boy! Today I received my first letter from Durden and a photo. It looks like we’re going to be grandparents soon!!!!
Our nest where we live is located in the large penguin city called Cabo
Virgenes (penguin cities are called colonies). Cabo Virgenes is close to the
human city of Rio Gallegos in southern Argentina. It is situated on the
northern shore of the Straits of Magellan, which is a very wide salt water
channel that connects the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, and separates
mainland South America from the island of Tierra del Fuego. You should be
able to find Rio Gallegos in any good atlas. I attach a map of the colony to
show you where in the colony I live, along with photos of me and my nest.
Cabo Virgenes is where I was born, and now that I am old enough to have
babies of my own, I returned to my birth place where I met my new friend and
partner. Building a nest and raising chicks is too much work for just one
penguin, so it is necessary to have a partner.
We prefer to make our nests inside a deep burrow, which we dig with our
feet. Burrows give the best protection against predators and bad weather,
but here at Cabo Virgenes the soil is too sandy to make deep burrows. The
soil simply gives way and the burrow collapses if we dig too deep. If you
have ever tried building sand castles with dry sand you will know what I
mean. So instead we had to make our nest beside a thorn bush, which gives
some protection. The nest is nothing fancy, it is just a hollow in the
ground lined with leaves, grass and feathers, but it is nice and warm when
it is windy.
Magellanic penguins like us lay two eggs each year, but these eggs won’t
hatch unless we keep them nice and warm. So we have to lie over the eggs all
the time, day and night, every single day, so that the warmth from our
bodies keeps the eggs warm. We always take turns at keeping the eggs warm.
Because we eat fish, we have nothing to eat whilst we are sitting on the
nest, because all the fish are in the sea. So one of us goes out to sea to
catch fish and to rest, whilst the other keeps the eggs warm. Then after two
or three days we change over, and we keep changing over every two or three
days until the eggs hatch. That is why it needs two penguins to keep the
eggs warm. I would never be able to eat if I did it on my own,
Gradually a little baby penguin grows inside the egg, using the yolk of the
egg as food for its development. The egg shells are slightly porous, which
allows the growing baby penguin to breathe through the egg shell.
Keeping the eggs warm is not the only reason for us to sit tightly over the
eggs. There are also lots of predators that would steal our eggs if given
half a chance. Such egg thieves include foxes, skunks and armadillos. None
of these predators pose a threat to us, because we know how to protect
We have a small hook at the tip of our beak. This is great for catching
slippery fish, and it is also great for biting the nose of any fox that
tries sniffing around our nest. The predators know we have a nasty bite, so
they leave us in peace, but they would still pinch the eggs if we left the
nest unattended even for just a few minutes, so we have to be very careful
to look after the eggs all the time.
We have to keep the eggs warm for many weeks, whilst the baby penguins grow
inside. I will write to you again as soon as the eggs hatch.
Lots of love from Durden