In October, spring has already arrived in the Southern Hemisphere.
The photoperiod in the Biodôme’s ecosystem changes. The days grow longer.
The biological cycles of the penguins at the Biodôme are synchronized with those of their fellows in the subantarctic.
Mating season began back in September for the rockhopper and macaroni penguins.
The third species to begin mating at the Biodôme are the gentoo penguins. The king penguins will be the last.
In late October, the divers install nesting platforms for the gentoo penguins and add nesting materials (pebbles).
The gentoo penguins at the Biodôme live in pairs all year long, and normally mate for life — although there are exceptions to the rule, of course.
This is the signal that allows the two parents of a pair to recognize each other in the colony.
The male chooses the nesting site and builds the nest. But it is the female that chooses the male and the territory.
Gentoo penguins nest in spots free of snow and ice.
Nesting materials vary, but very often include pebbles.
There is a certain amount of competition for construction materials. Males can sometimes be spotted stealing pebbles from other nests.
Mating is always relatively brief and often quite acrobatic.
After mating, the female lays two eggs, about three or four days apart.
They are both generally about the same size. They are placed one behind the other on the feet of the parent that is responsible for incubating them.
During the brooding period, which lasts about 35 days, both parents, and not just the father, take turns on the nest. They bow to each other and stretch their heads toward the nest or skyward.
During this period, they have to defend the nest, sometimes aggressively.
While one of the parents stays on the nest, the other goes down to the water to swim and preen its plumage.
In captivity, the survival rate for the two chicks is very high. In the wild, survival depends above all on the availability of food.
The first ten days in the chicks’ lives are critical. Parents must protect them from the cold, for they can freeze to death.
When the chicks hatch, the divers feed the parents four times a day so that the male and female can give their chicks enough to eat.
When the chicks are hungry, they peck their parents’ beaks, causing the adults to regurgitate.
At first, the parents regurgitate a fish “stew” for their young.
After one month, the chicks can manage whole fish, although they are still regurgitated by the parents
Eating at this rate, the chicks grow very quickly.
The young have been standing up beside their parents for some time already. They are covered with grey and white down.
The chicks waddle around with their parents and sometimes meet up with other chicks.
By late January it is time to form a crèche, by bringing all the young of the colony together in one place.
In the wild, a crèche allows both parents to hunt for food, to meet the growing needs of their chicks. It also protects the young ones from the cold and from predators.
At the Biodôme, spending time in the crèche allows the chicks to learn how to be fed by hand and gives them time to moult, away from the colony.
More than two months after hatching, the chicks have finished moulting and become independent. The parents also renew their plumage once a year, after the mating period.
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