Same-sex Gentoo penguin pairs prepare for nesting season at Sea Life Melbourne Aquarium


Mating season is underway at the Sea Life Aquarium in Melbourne, where two groups of male gentoo penguins have mated, ready to welcome eggs.

While most of the aquarium’s penguins have teamed up during mating season, Tiger and Branston, along with Jones and Klaus, have taken the plunge this year.

“So we started setting up our nests not too long ago, a few weeks ago,” Nicola Saville, senior bird keeper at Sea Life Melbourne, told ABC News Breakfast.

“We noticed that our two groups of boys had started to mate in their small areas, and they actually settled right next to each other.”

Are same-sex penguin pairs rare?

Ms Saville said same-sex penguin pairs were not uncommon.

“But it’s kinda rare that we have two same-sex couples,” she said.

“They are young couples [and] they have just started to participate in the breeding season. That’s why everything is new and fresh, very exciting. “

Ms. Saville says same-sex penguin pairs are sometimes used as foster parents.(Provided: SEA LIFE Melbourne Aquarium)

Ms Saville said same-sex couples couldn’t lay eggs, but would make their own nests.

“Then if we need them for host families, which we sometimes do, we can use them as host pairs,” she said.

“If not, then they just have their little nest for the breeding season.”

Do penguins mate for life?

Not quite, according to Ms. Saville.

“They tend to be monogamous throughout a season,” she said.

“So our couples will now tend to be together for a season. But sometimes they change. “

Gentoo penguins nest once a year, just before the start of spring.

Two male penguins holding their fins together.
Both penguin parents, of the same sex or not, participate in the nesting season.(Provided: SEA LIFE Melbourne Aquarium)

Who builds the nests?

When it comes to parental responsibility, Gentoo penguins do not have fixed gender roles.

“[For] penguins, both parents will participate in the entire nesting season, ”said Ms. Saville.

She said the nesting season’s work included collecting stones, incubating eggs and rearing the young.

Two male penguins near the rocks.
The aquarium staff will soon know if same-sex couples will be good egg-feeding couples.(Provided: SEA LIFE Melbourne Aquarium)

Ms Saville said the gentoo penguins at the aquarium have started to create their nests for this season.

“They happen for about a month and then we start to see eggs being laid and they incubate them for 30 days,” she said.

“Around the time we start to see spawns, we’ll see if same-sex couples are a good couple. “


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