Where do the penguins go at night?

In past blogs, I’ve tried to answer a few of the most common questions we get asked at the African penguin exhibit. Today I thought I’d tackle another one: “Where do the penguins go at night?”

Our penguins do not stay out on exhibit all night. During the warmer months, they come inside around 4 p.m., not only so we can thoroughly clean the exhibit for the next day, but also for their own safety and well-being.

  • During heavy mosquito months, penguins are susceptible to mosquito-born diseases such as Avian Malaria, Encephalitis and West Nile Virus. Though these diseases pose little risk to humans, they can be deadly to our penguins. Therefore, all standing water in and around the exhibit is removed, replaced or chlorinated every day during the time when penguins are off exhibit.
  • Bringing them in at night allows us to better control their environment. Although penguins can adapt to a range of temperatures thanks to their tightly overlapping feathers, it should be noted that the nightly low temperature on the coast of south Africa seldom drops below 50 degrees fahrenheit. The same cannot be said for many of our Rochester nights!
  • Because the Zoo is located within Seneca Park, there is always the possibility of a predatory animal intrusion into the exhibit. Such animals could include coyotes, foxes, raccoons and cats.
  • Lastly, returning them to their indoor holding area aids in pair bonding by allowing pairs to spend the night in their nesting boxes.

If you’ve ever visited the Zoo in the winter, you’ve probably noticed our penguins are seldom on exhibit. That’s because, while most people associate penguins with ice and snow, our African penguins would never encounter snow in their natural habitat and are not fond of the cold weather.

Therefore, as the days get colder, their time outside is limited. And once the temperature drops below 37 degrees fahrenheit, our penguins do not go outside at all.

For a behind the scenes look at our indoor holding facilities and how our birds get there, check out this video:

–Kevin Blakely, Zoo Keeper