GALVESTON, Texas — The folks at Moody Gardens are thankful for two extra helpings of macaroni this Thanksgiving and we're not talking about the creamy, cheesy side dish.
They welcomed two healthy macaroni penguin chicks in the South Atlantic exhibit. The first chick hatched on Nov. 6 and weighed 62 grams. And the second hatched on Nov. 9 and weighed 124 grams.
The proud penguin parents are Feta, who arrived at Moody Gardens in 2016 from SeaWorld San Diego and Bleu, a male who came to Moody Gardens from Montreal.
"We are overjoyed and extremely grateful for these new chicks that have now joined the exhibit here at Moody Gardens and that our macaroni penguins have had multiple years of successful breeding,” Senior Biologist Maggie Reynolds said.
Macaroni penguins, which are native to the Sub-Antarctic region of the world, are listed as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List. Colonies are decreasing in the wild because of climate change and overfishing.
“By having these birds in our collection and showing the public how important these issues are, we are able to share the many ways that these populations can be helped in nature,” Aquarium curator Diane Olsen explained.
The penguins reportedly got their name from sailors because the yellow feather crest on their heads resembled feathers on hats in the 18th century. Those feathers were called macaronis like the classic nursery rhyme "Yankee Doodle."
In addition to the macaroni penguins, five other species including gentoo, chinstrap, king, and northern and southern rockhopper penguins also call the South Atlantic Exhibit home.
The warm-climate Humboldt penguins live in an exhibit right next door.
Visitors can also see sting rays, sharks, seals, sea lions and over 200 different species of fish at Moody Gardens.