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Aww, baby Gentoo penguins winning fans at Tennessee Aquarium


Summer is always a hot time at the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga, especially with three cool new arrivals drawing attention.

The trio of baby Gentoo penguins hatched at the end of June.

The Gentoos chicks are providing a bit of respite from the harsh headlines that have put the tourist-friendly city in the national spotlight since last week.

Gentoos are the classic tuxedoed-looking black and white birds, in contrast to Macaronis, fellow Tennessee Aquarium occupants who boast a crest of yellow feathers decorating their heads.

Two of the Gentoo arrivals are siblings, but are being raised by different penguin mothers.

“When Bug and Big T’s first egg hatched, they were having a tough time keeping both the second egg and the chick underneath them,” senior aviculturist Loribeth Lee said in a release from the popular attraction. “Biscuit and Blue did not have a viable egg this year, so we were able to move the second egg into their nest. It hatched a couple of days later and they have done a beautiful job caring for their adopted chick.”

It's the first time a baby penguin has been raised at the Aquarium by surrogate parents.

“We always prefer to let the parents raise their chicks, but we’ll intervene whenever necessary,” Lee said. “Since Biscuit and Blue have been diligent parents in the past, we believed they would do a great job caring for Bug and Big T’s chick and they have.”

The three new Gentoos are starting to show their individuality.

“The chick in Biscuit and Blue’s nest acts pretty mellow, preferring to hide its head under mom or dad,” Lee said. “Bug and Big T’s other chick is pretty perky and active, but nothing like Nipper’s chick. He acts feisty just like his father and loves to bite and squawk a lot.”

Lee and the other experts point out the chicks and talk about their development during penguin programs that take place at 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. daily. They are on view at the Penguins' Rock exhibit in the Ocean Journey building.

Gentoos care for babies for 70 to 75 days.

The gender of the four penguin chicks will be determined later this fall when every bird in the colony undergoes a thorough physical examination. A blood sample will be collected from the juvenile birds that will be sent to a lab for DNA testing to determine whether the new additions are male or female. A naming contest on the aquarium’s Facebook page will begin after the genders are announced.

Meanwhile, one Gentoo egg remains on exhibit. In the nest of Poncho and Peep, this final egg could hatch in a week if it is fertile.

Open 10 a.m.-8 p.m. daily (tickets sold until 6 p.m.). One Broad St., Chattanooga. $29.95, adults; $18.95, ages 3-12; free under 3. 1-800-262-0695, .

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The AJC Features Team spotlights arts previews, reviews, profiles, news features and breaking news on Atlanta's cultural and life scene.