This weekend, we will “spring forward” for Daylight Saving Time, and set the clocks forward an hour, as we get ready for warmer weather. This is not the case for the cold weather penguins in Penguin Palooza – one of the most diverse collections of penguins in the Midwest. The cold weather birds are getting ready for winter and less daylight. The Antarctic is on an opposite schedule from the United States. The Antarctic only experiences two seasons: winter and summer, because the earth’s axis is tilted. The penguins experience their summer from late October through mid-March and their winter from mid-March through Late October.
“Our penguins have already been preparing for winter,” said Dan Clady, Senior Biologist at Newport Aquarium. “Believe it or not, that doesn’t involve lowering the temperatures or adding more snow to their exhibit,” Clady said. Clady is one of many biologists providing the penguins with expert care at the Newport Aquarium. The most important thing Clady does to get the penguins ready for winter is adjusting the lights in the exhibit. Clady starts the preparation by shortening the amount of time the lights are on in the exhibit. The penguins will have about seven hours of light during their winter, and up to 17 hours during their summer.
“Our penguins must stay on a light schedule to recreate conditions just like in Antarctica,” said Clady. The entire team of biologists at Newport Aquarium provide expert and professional care for our penguins. They make certain the penguins’ exhibit replicates conditions just like the conditions the penguins would face in their natural habitat. The light schedule lets the penguins know the seasons are changing. It is important to keep the penguins on the same light schedule because their activities differ in summer and winter.
“During the summer, the penguins are molting, nesting and eating like crazy,” Clady said. There are five species of cold weather penguins at Newport Aquarium: Chinstrap, Gentoo, King, Macaroni, and Southern Rockhopper. All penguin species molt at different times throughout the summer. Penguins are more likely to try to steal rocks from each other and scuffle over them. Every day is different with the penguins. In the winter, the penguins start to leave their nest and move around in their space more. The penguins will come down from their loft area, where a lot of their nests are kept in Penguin Palooza. Penguins also are more likely to swim during their winter since they will not be molting.
Guests don’t have to worry about missing out on the cold weather penguins just because it is their winter. The penguins might be more active with the lights on, but that does not mean they are not active when the lights are out. Guests might even see some of the penguins sleep, standing up! Even with the lights out, the penguins will still be able to be seen in Penguin Palooza. “The lights mimic the illumination of the moonlight which makes it just light enough for our guests to see the penguins,” Clady said.
No matter the season, guests can discover the wonder of cold weather penguins.