Just because I haven’t been writing doesn’t mean the penguins have stopped doing what they do every year. It was a good year for chicks, only a few in hospital, and most have finished their moult and are sporting their brand new waterproof feather coat. Their head feathers have a pale grey stripe and their eyes are not yet yellow; the yellow stripe and yellow eye come after next year’s moult. This officially makes them juveniles and they are learning how to navigate their way in the ocean and feed themselves without coming to harm.
Besides learning how to feed themselves, juveniles must practice being an adult, so their different colour scheme sets them apart from adults for good reason. When a juvenile male flirts with someone else’s missus, he may not really mean it, and he shouldn’t be taken to task too harshly if he is still young. A flipper slap will sort the young one out, no need for biting…
And speaking of bites, last week we found a penguin with a very distinctive flipper bite. Dee Boersma who is visiting our Centre for Science Communication suspects it’s a sea lion bite. Rosalie has dubbed him “Chomp” and is treating him for infection. He was in fairly good shape considering. The bite wasn’t fresh and he wasn’t starving so he’d managed to feed himself despite his wound, but he is not as fat as he should be before the moult so he’ll be fed and given antibiotics in hospital until he’s finished moulting. After this moult, he will have a yellow head band and yellow eye.
At XXX, none of the juvenile penguins from last year were banded so we know that Chomp is not from our colony. We are glad to have him and hope he stays (less than 2% of yellow-eyed penguins wander to places other than where they were born) because very few of our own juveniles returned from last year. When we release him after his moult, he will have to learn to swim with a little less power…but we will be looking out for him, on land at least, if he gets in trouble.