A popular “gay” penguin couple in China has been given a newly hatched chick to care for. The male penguins were given the hatchling because a female penguin was struggling after giving birth to twins, which is rare for penguins, according to the U.K.’s Metro.
“It’s a big job creating a baby penguin. It’s definitely a two-penguin job,” Kevin McGowan of the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology in Ithaca, N.Y., told ABCNews.com.
McGowan said that newborn penguins require a great deal of attention and effort to protect. In the rare event of a penguin giving birth to twins, one of the hatchlings can be in danger.
“In birds, it doesn’t matter what sex you are. Both sexes are perfectly capable and absolutely necessary to raise a penguin bird,” McGowan said. “It’s not like mammals where only one sex can feed.”
The penguins were born at Harbin Polar Land in northern China at the end of November. The “gay” penguin couple has been known to try to steal eggs during hatching seasons, according to Metro.
“The [heterosexual] pairs do a display of bringing a pebble, passing it back and forth. The interaction gets the birds going and synchronized for breeding season,” McGowan said. “If [the 'gay' penguins] are doing the same kind of thing, they could be passing the pebble and ready to roll.”
McGowan said that the hatchling will likely not suffer from being separated from its biological parents and could eventually recognize the “gay” penguins as its parents.
“It takes a little while to learn who your parents are,” McGowan said. “Little kids just don’t care who feeds them. All they want is to be fed.”
The Chinese penguins are the second pair of “gay” penguins to recently capture the public’s attention. Buddy and Pedro are two inseparable male birds at the Toronto Zoo, whose impending break-up sparked public outcry in November. They will be reunited in the spring.
The two will be split up approximately one week from now for breeding season. Zookeepers want them to breed with females to help populate the species, which is endangered. But when the breeding season is over, all the African penguins will eventually return to the same enclosure, and “if Buddy and Pedro want to be together … they will be back together,” said Tom Mason, Toronto Zoo curator of birds.
While McGowan said there is no guarantee that the new parents in China will take to the chick, it is a likely possibility that they will not be able to resist.
“A begging baby is a strong stimulus for anyone,” McGowan said.