Get to Know the Stars
A bird expert talks about penguins
|Young penguins. (Photo: Jérôme Maison. © 2005 Bonne Pioche Productions / Alliance De Production Cinématographique.)|
By David Watson
Linda Henry of San Diego’s SeaWorld knows a thing or two about birds. She is an aviculturist, or bird expert—someone who specializes in the study and treatment of penguins.
Henry works with emperor penguins, the species of penguin featured in March of the Penguins. Henry says that the documentary has raised awareness about penguins and their habitat, especially among young people.
“Children have this incredible appreciation and knowledge now,” Henry says. “Many schools do sections on penguins in their curriculum.”
Henry is a big fan of the movie, but adds that much about emperor penguins didn’t make it into the documentary.
For example, emperor penguins spend about 70 percent of their lives in the water, and shed their feathers once a year in a process called “molting.” “They have to drop their feathers all at once,” explains Henry. “They can’t enter the water [during molting], because it’s sort of like getting a hole in your wetsuit. It gets cold.”
Because the penguins can’t swim or fish while molting, they do not eat much during this period. When their new feathers grow in, the penguins begin to eat regularly again, gaining weight to prepare for the winter.
Emperor penguins rarely breed outside their natural habitat in Antarctica. The first emperor penguin bred outside its natural habitat was in San Diego’s SeaWorld in 1980. Since then, only a handful of penguins have been bred around the world.
March of the Penguins, the 2006 Academy Award winner for Best Documentary, will air on national television for the first time on the Hallmark Channel, Saturday, November 25.