As Shedd volunteer-extraordinare, I am currently being trained to clean the penguin exhibit. (This is the site of my major ass bruising from earlier this week.) While at first I wasn't too excited about penguins, I have to say, my perspective has changed.
[begin brief lecture mode]
Penguins are flightless seabirds. While many people assume they live in arctic climes, they mostly just prefer chilly. Their feather have evolved into a waterproof layer of insulation they need to maintain their body temperature while swimming. Wings provide steering and propulsion underwater. They eat fish. Predators include seals, sea lions, whales, and sharks.
Penguins are way cooler than I ever expected! They swim incredibly fast, and are amazingly agile. Frequently when they come out of the water they just shoot straight up, landing upright on the rocks feet above the water line. Water just beads up on their feathers, it's incredible! Right now the birds at the Shedd are molting, and it's quite pathetic. They look very ragged, and don't much feel like eating. But soon they will be feeling more like themselves, or so I am told.
I have two favorites so far. Number 18 is a little rockhopper penguin who was mostly hand-reared. Her parents were first timers, and didn't feed her quite enough, and she had a heart condition when she was hatched. All the human contact has made her very social, and she likes trying to climb into laps, or convincing a human to lift her down from her high ledge, rather than jumping. Number 10 is a gentoo who very much enjoys visiting with the trainers when they clean the exhibit windows. If a trainer lifts her into the air, she will sit in their hands, then dive off into the water.
They all are interested when people enter the exhibit. I've been nibbled on repeatedly, as they see just how interesting I am. I'm supposed to ignore it, though, so I'm not interesting at all. Ah well.
Next week: otters! Yay!!