Update from Durden

In case you haven’t been following along this year, Durden is our adopted penguin.  For my birthday at the start of the year, Stark adopted a penguin for me.  We’ve enjoyed his updates and love to share them.  You should adopt a penguin too!

I am finally back home after a really long journey. To be honest we were all
having such a good time during our winter vacations that we left it rather
late leaving Brazil, and have arrived back home later than we should have.
As a result there was lots to be done, and everything has been a rush.

As usual we had to rebuild the nest. I always put my nest under the same
bush. It is my bush. As a penguin I might not own much in the world, but I
do own a bush, and I don’t let anybody else use it. However each year I do
like to pick a different spot under the bush to put the nest.

That is because there are lots of penguin fleas, and even though we have
been away from the nest all through the winter, the fleas remain in the old
nest lining waiting for us to return home. The fleas are sneaky. They remain
in a dormant state because of the cold winter weather, but wake up as soon
as they feel a warm body beside them, and crawl into our feathers to suck
our blood. Moving the nest a metre or so from the old spot each year helps
to stop some of the fleas from finding me.

Then came the egg laying. As I mentioned to you last time, these are big
eggs, so they take some laying. At first one egg is laid, and then the
second egg was laid four days later. Magellanic penguins like us always lay
two eggs each year.

I now have both of our eggs in the nest and I attach a photo of me lying
over them to keep them nice and warm. The baby penguins inside the eggs take
about 6 weeks to hatch, but only if we keep the eggs warm throughout that
time. Even though the eggs have not hatched yet, they still have baby
penguins inside, and just like any baby, they have to be kept warm and safe.
We do this by lying over them so that our body warmth keeps the eggs warm.

Just like other babies, the baby penguins also need to be fed whilst they
are growing inside the eggs. Every baby needs feeding. So how do you think
the baby penguins are fed whilst they are inside the eggs? They are fed by
the egg yolk. The yellow part of the egg that makes eggs taste so good is
actually the food that the baby penguins eat whilst they are growing inside
the egg.

You will not find baby birds in the chicken eggs that you eat, because the
eggs they sell for food are sterile so that they don’t contain babies. But
the eggs are otherwise just the same as penguin eggs, except that penguin
eggs are much bigger. The body of the baby penguin actually grows around the
egg yolk, so that the yoke ends up inside the baby’s stomach when the baby
penguin is ready to hatch. That is why baby birds are born with bulging
stomachs. This yoke inside the stomach provides food for the baby penguin
for the first three or four days of its life after hatching. Nature is truly
amazing.

Baby penguins also need to breathe whilst they are inside the egg. How do
you think they do that?  Even though the egg shell is hard, it actually has
millions of tiny little holes which are too small to see with your eyes, and
these holes allow air to enter the egg so that the baby penguin can breathe.
It is also the reason that eggs go rotten if kept for too long. An old trick
than chicken farmers used to use prior to modern refrigerators was to
varnish hen eggs with a special egg varnish that sealed up these tiny holes,
so that the eggs would last for years.

Prior to hatching, the young penguin chicks start calling to us from inside
the egg. They talk to us and they also talk to their brother or sister in
the other egg in the nest. This helps the chicks to hatch at the same time,
even though one egg was laid four days earlier. The more equal the time of
hatching, the more equal the two chicks will be in size and strength. For a
baby penguin it is not good to have a larger stronger brother robbing all
the food that the adults bring home.

After such a long period of time out a sea, and then so much work getting
things ready for the eggs, it will be rather nice to just lie in the nest
for a few weeks with nothing to do but sleep. The rest will be nice.  I will
write to let you know as soon as the eggs hatch.

Lots of love from Durden
Image

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