Australia’s First Gay Penguin Couple Welcomes Baby Chick

Pair of gentoo penguins build a nest
Jeff J Mitchell / Getty Images

A couple of same-sex penguins have welcomed their first baby chick at Sea Life Sydney Aquarium in Australia, the aquarium has announced.

The pair of male gentoo penguins, known as Sphen and Magic, are the proud new dads of a 91-gram chick that was hatched from a foster egg. The yet-to-be-named baby was born on Friday, according to the Daily Mail. In the meanwhile, the baby chick will answer by the name Sphengic — a combination of both parents’ names.

“Baby Sphengic has already stolen our hearts! We love watching the proud parents doting and taking turns caring for their baby chick. With that said, the first 20 days of a penguin chick’s life are the most vulnerable so it is extra important the chick is very happy, healthy and well fed by his parents,” Tish Hannan, from the Penguin Department Supervisor at Sea Life Sydney Aquarium, said.

The tiny animal will remain with its dads for the next five or six weeks, and the parents will feed the chick up to 10 times a day by regurgitation. At some point, Sphen and Magic will have to teach their offspring how to swim and build its own nest, but for now, the chick will be fully taken care of by its attentive parents.

Its birth was announced by the Sydney Aquarium through a social media post. In a tweet, they explained female and male penguins gentoo penguin chicks aren’t any different physically, so their gender can only be determined through a DNA test. The baby’s sex will only be revealed two months from now because drawing blood from a newborn can be a dangerous procedure.

The couple’s love affair started when they became inseparable and were “constantly seen waddling around and going for swims together” as breeding season approached, the aquarium said. They then engaged in a well-known courtship ritual among penguins, which involved presenting pebbles to each other. As they ended up constructing their pebble nest together, the aquarium caretakers decided to give them a dummy egg, “to allow them to practice incubating and develop their skills.”

Once the two dads-to-be passed the test and proved themselves responsible enough to hatch their own egg, they were given a foster one from another pair of penguins that had hatched two. Because gentoos usually only have enough resources to raise one egg at a time, the aquarium said the outcome was the best “for all penguin couples and the future of their eggs.”

Gentoo penguins, like other sub-Antarctic penguin species, face various threats, including habitat destruction due to climate change, and plastic pollution consumption. Sphen and Magic’s baby chick will be “an ambassador for its generation” at the Sydney Aquarium, and hopefully help bring to light some of the plights penguins endure.