Nero the fluffy penguin prepares for his awkward phase

Two parents watching over an awkward child with weight issues that's still living with them isn't really news. Unless the child in question is a king penguin.

Rotund young bird stands out from rest of colony at Calgary Zoo, but he's about to undergo serious changes

The Calgary's Zoo five-month-old penguin, Nero, will lose his fluff within the next few months. (Ayesha Clough/CBC)

Two parents watching over an awkward child with weight issues that's still living with them isn't really news. Unless the child in question is a king penguin. 

Nero is, well, different than the adult penguins in his life. While mom, dad and the rest of the colony are decked out in their finest black and whites, the only child is big, fluffy and brown.

Did we mention big?

"He's five months, a little over five months, and he weighs around 15 and a half kilos, which means he is the heaviest bird in our colony," said Malu Celli, a curator at the Calgary Zoo. "He's heavier than his mom, who's quite a big, chunky penguin too, and he still has some growing to do." 

The size is essentially a form of insurance for young penguins. 

"It's like they know they'll have to figure out how to swim and catch fish and they're not going to be very good from the start, so they'll pile up the pounds in preparation for that and they'll lose a lot of weight," said Celli, who adds Nero could lose 20 to 30 per cent of his body weight. 

Nero also has the squeaky voice of a developing youngster.

"He doesn't sound at all like the adults, which are quite regal and they have a very clear trumpeting sound. He has a very whistley, like little bird sound," Celli said.


Nero, a five-month-old king penguin, is big, fluffy and about to go through a serious awkward phase at the Calgary Zoo. 0:24

And while he's pretty cute at the moment, looking like a hair blowout gone awry — with his brown feathers puffing out around his already impressive girth — he's about to hit a serious awkward phase. 

"Like other penguins, they sort of moult all in one go, but we will be able to see patches missing, or patches of brown fluff when he's half black-and-white and half brown. It's going to look quite bizarre for a while," Celli said. 

His brown fluff is not waterproof like the black-and-white getup he'll soon sport, which will allow him to get in the water and learn to be a proper penguin.

In the wild, the process of growing up would be faster, with the parents abandoning the child and forcing it to learn or die. 

"Whereas here, he can always pester a little bit more and maybe get a free meal here and there," Celli said.

Nero is expected to go through his changes any time over the next three months.

Nero, the first king penguin chick born at the Calgary Zoo, stands out with his fluffy appearance. (Ayesha Clough/CBC)


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