World first as gay King penguins become fathers

In an apparent world first, the newest chick in a Danish zoo’s King penguin colony has two dads.

“This year has been extraordinary,” zoologist Nina Christensen told the Star on Thursday.

Odense Zoo keepers realized two of their male King penguins were a couple about a year ago, she said. Then they noticed the gay penguins would try to “disturb the other pairs and steal their eggs.”

So far, not too odd. Penguins and swans in the wild do the same thing.

In brooding season, though, the gay penguins took to trying to incubate dead herring.

“The keepers realized they seriously wanted to stay with an egg.”

As fortune would have it, a female penguin started acting oddly as well. She’d already delivered an egg with one male then dumped him and produced another with a different, already mated, male. Then she dumped him and abandoned the egg.

In the lifetime monogamy of the King penguin world, this was “extraordinary,” said Christensen.

“Now we have an extra egg and this pair that have been standing with fishes.”

The keepers tested the gay penguins’ parenting skills on a ball, then tried them with the abandoned egg. They were, said Christensen, natural parents.

“With King penguins, they mix it between the male and female. One stands with the egg while the other goes to feed and then they shift. It was the same with this pair. They both incubated the egg.”

Happy feet.

The chick hatched about a month ago and the new little family remains separated from the colony while they bond but will soon rejoin them. Penguins recognize their offspring by their distinctive cries, indistinguishable to humans, and this trio are no different, Christensen said.

The behaviour could be common in nature, she said. Male and female king penguins look identical and they share incubation, so it’s tough to tell what’s going on inside a large colony. In fact, the zoo won’t know the gender of this little one until it gets its adult feathers at about eight months.

In captivity, however, the Odense pair are a first King penguins as gay adoptive dads, she said. Not the first gay penguin parents, though.

The story of a pair of male Chinstrap penguins at Central Park Zoo in New York City who adopted and reared an egg was told in the book “And Tango Makes Three.” A German zoo helped two gay Humbolt penguins hatch and nurture an egg.

The Danish penguins don’t have names, unlike Toronto’s same-sex pair, African penguins Buddy and Pedro, who became international celebrities last year with their bromance.

Buddy and Pedro were paired with females this time last year to mate but the zoo has been coy about their success.

Responses to "Denmark's Gay Penguins Become Fathers (Photos)"

  1. Anonymous says:

    Beautiful =)

  2. alfre says:

    Tooo freaking cute! <3 ahhh the power of nature!

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