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Encountering penguins in San Diego.

Ah, romantic autumn, when a penguin's fancy turns to thoughts of... spring courtship? In their native Southern Hemisphere, penguins begin nesting as days lengthen in September and October. At San Diego's Sea World, artificial light simulates this seasonal change in the same months, and Antarctic species of penguins begin courtship, nesting, and egg laying. Visitors may see fuzzy new chicks, as well as this country's largest population of penguins (more than 400 birds). And to help you learn more, the park offers free behind-the-scenes tours.

At Penguin Encounter, you meet 9 of the world's 17 penguin species-from small rockhoppers to the hefty emperors. These flightless aquatic birds with flipper-like wings are found from the Galipagos to Antarctica.

In the Antarctic exhibit, you see a climate-controlled (28 degrees) ice "island" and pool. From a moving sidewalk, you view seven Antarctic species waddling on the ice and swimming and porpoising in the deep pool.

Some "springtime" behavior to notice

Chinstrap penguins, notable for the black stripe under their chins, are aggressive birds. You may see them flapping their wings and pecking at more timid penguins or even taking over their nests.

Adelie penguins, with distinctive white eye rings, scurry about, rolling stones together to build their rock nests. Emperor and king penguins, the two largest types (an emperor can weigh 90 pounds), forgo nests. Instead, they carry both the incubating egg and the hatched chick around on the tops of their big feet for a very long period (incubation takes 67 days for emperors, 56 for kings). By this month, king penguins may still be carrying eggs, while emperors could be toting new chicks.

Among the group known as crested penguins (species with red eyes and orangeor yellow-feathered crests), expect to see lots of activity. Rockhopper penguins, for example, bound about with unique, feettogether locomotion. Outside, a small pool and lava-rock island house the tropical Magellanic penguins: listen for their donkey-like bray.

Getting behind the scenes

Opened in 1983, the penguin facility has yielded much breeding success: this is the only place where emperor penguins have bred in captivity. A free 90-minute behind-the-scenes tour points out the endangered Humboldt penguin from South America (not otherwise on display). Ask the guide if there are chicks to view.

The tour is offered by request between 10 and 2 daily; it also takes in other parts of Sea World. Sign up at the ticket booth. Sea World is off 1-5, on Sea World Drive. Hours are 9 to 6 daily. Admission is $21, $15.50 for ages 3 through 11, $16.80 for seniors. Parking is free.
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Copyright 1989 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:San Diego's Sea World
Date:Oct 1, 1989
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