humboldt penguin chick born at Newquay Zoo 2024

May-December romance results in penguin chick success at Newquay Zoo

Windy – a 30-year-old Humboldt penguin – surprised everyone at Newquay Zoo when she paired up with young male, Nacho, last breeding season. However, the 26-year age gap doesn’t seem to have been an obstacle, as this year the couple has produced a healthy young chick.

While four-year-old Nacho is a first-time father, Windy first become a mother in 1999 and has produced 23 offspring since then. Due to the success of her descendants through the European breeding programme in 2023, she claimed the title of great-great-great grandmother to a chick hatched in Schwerin Zoo, Germany.

Windy 2
Penguin Windy may be one of the oldest penguin parents in the world

What’s even more remarkable about this pairing is that Windy might be one of the oldest penguin parents in the world, as penguins – including Humboldt penguins – usually only live to around 30-years-old in captivity. But with her toy-boy in tow, Windy is proving to be as capable a mother as ever to her latest chick.

Dan Trevelyan, Senior Bird Keeper at Newquay Zoo, said: “Windy was paired up with male penguin, Jet, for a long time, and produced more than 20 chicks together. When Windy lost her partner, we didn’t necessarily expect her to pair up with another penguin, but Nacho started courting Windy last year, and the two have been devoted to each other ever since.

“They had a clutch of eggs last spring, but neither of them were successful, so we are really happy that the pair have had a healthy chick this breeding season.”

Two chicks have hatched at Newquay Zoo so far this year. The other chick belongs to Ebony and Patch, a couple that has been together for more than 20 years. After spending about a month in their burrows, the chicks are now starting to venture out of their nests. They’ll soon start to learn how to catch fish for themselves, rather than being fed solely by their parents.    

The chicks are currently covered in thick grey down, which helps to provide additional warmth and protection, along with camouflage, when they are very young. However, in the next couple of months, these soft, downy feathers will be replaced by a sleek, waterproof coat.

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