On April 1, rocks were placed in the penguin exhibit, officially kicking off nesting season at the Tennessee Aquarium. A sophisticated lighting system in the exhibit mimics the photoperiod, or length of daylight, the penguins would experience in their natural habitat. (Interesting note: while we are on a northern light cycle, gentoos and macaronis live on a southern light cycle in the wild.) Daylight changes are dramatic throughout the year. The longer light cycle has recently begun to trigger their nesting and breeding instincts.
Eighteen of the 26 birds have paired up and are busy building their nests. This process can take quite a while as penguins are very picky about which rocks they use – and sometimes resort to stealing rocks from other nests. The penguins’ meticulous nature during nest-building makes now a great time for penguin watching.
Rocks will continue to be placed in the exhibit over the next couple of weeks as nesting continues. We hope this will lead to welcoming new chicks later in the fall. The season officially ends when the last chick safely swims in the water.
Check back soon for more updates. Until then, watch this video of Hercules and Shamrock’s happy reaction as they see the rocks in the exhibit:
You can also catch nesting penguins in action at Breakfast with the Penguins this Saturday!