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King Penguins Keep Themselves Royally Entertained During Lockdown

Penguins at Birdland

Despite a lack of visitors, England’s only breeding colony of king penguins appears unruffled as they get on with life during lockdown at Birdland Park & Gardens in the Cotswolds.
Apart from their leading role in weekly online feeding times, the famously flightless birds appear to be taking self-isolating in their stride - or should that be waddle?
Following their winter moult, they’re very much getting on with life and starting to pair up for the imminent mating season.
“It can be hard to tell with some birds, but the penguins definitely all have their own individual personalities and they’re very good at letting you know exactly how they’re feeling,” said head keeper Alistair Keen.
“Obviously even though we’re closed to the public they get to see us keepers on a daily basis and we’re already starting to see the familiar couples beginning to pair up and prepare for the breeding season.
“You do occasionally catch them looking out into the rest of the park, and it’s difficult not to imagine they’re wondering where everyone’s gone. Hopefully it won’t be too long before they return to being the centre of attention once again, as befits such regal birds,
” added Alistair.
Fully grown king penguins may reach close to a metre in height and weigh around 14–17 kg.
In the wild they can live for up to 25 years, however some birds have lived for more than 40 years in captivity.
The king penguin incubates a single egg on their feet.  As with most penguin species they are brooded by both male and female, with incubation lasting from 33-64 days.
Newly hatched chicks are covered with fine down and continue to be cared for by both parents until they are big enough and able to keep themselves warm.
During the 19th and 20th centuries the birds were hunted for their oil, eggs and feathers.
However a commercial ban on hunting in 1969 has led to a major recovery in their numbers. Experts believe there are up to two million breeding pairs worldwide and the population is gradually increasing.
There are 17 species of penguin in the world and the king penguin is the second largest, weighing up to 18kg. The largest is the emperor penguin, which can weigh 45kg and the smallest is the appropriately-named little penguin which weighs two kilogrammes.
As well as the weekly live streamed feeding times, frustrated visitors can also enjoy a 24-hour bird’s eye view of the penguins via a live-cam on Birdland’s website.

Explore Gloucestershire
26 May 2020

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