12 Jun 2014
Eight-week-old penguin chick Rooney is held aloft by keeper Karen Neech at Chester Zoo. Rooney is one of five chicks to be named after England World Cup stars – along with Gerrard, Banks, Moore and Hurst. The tiny team will be taught how to swim, hunt and feed in water in a special nursery pool at the zoo.

Each year our keepers name their new charges after a particular theme. In 2013 their clutch got their names from characters from the hit TV show Dr Who and this time around they’ve been named after English World Cup stars past and present.

Rooney the penguin, who hatched in spring, has moved into a nursery at the zoo to learn some penguin basics – along with classmates Gerrard, Banks and Moore.

And just as school children have to learn their ABCs, the zoo’s youngsters will be taught how to swim, hunt and feed in water.

Penguin team manager Andy Woolham said:

“For our penguin chicks this is a learning process of two halves. We kick off their education with lessons in and around our shallow nursery pool where the main goal is to build up their confidence. Then, when we’re happy they can take fish from our keepers and no longer need to rely on regurgitated food from mum and dad, they graduate to our main pool. Here they continue the learning process by following the lead of the adults in the colony.”

The penguins are an endangered South American species, which come from the coastal areas of Peru and Chile. The new arrivals mean the zoo now has a colony of 42.

Mr Woolham added:

“Rooney is so far showing a great appetite for learning. When the time comes we hope he will dive with great elegance.
Gerrard is still with mum at the moment but we’re confident he’ll soon be showing real promise and could end up top of our mini-league! Hopefully the great form that our penguin chicks are starting to show will be matched by their namesakes out in Brazil.”

Chester Zoo funds conservation initiatives in the penguins’ homeland to help them in their natural habitat, where they are faced with many pressures including over fishing of their food and habitat loss.

Humboldt penguin facts

  • This South American penguin is named after the chilly Humboldt current, along which it commonly swims
  • In the wild, Humboldt penguins are vulnerable to disturbances in their food chain caused by strong El Nino currents
  • Humboldt penguins are social animals, living in relatively large colonies of closely spaced burrows
  • Humboldt penguins ‘fly’ through the water at speeds of up to 25mph
  • They enjoy a diet of small fish (anchovies, herring, smelt) and crustaceans
  • Of the world’s 17 penguin species, Humboldts are among the most at risk, with the species classed as vulnerable to extinction by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN)
  • Rooney’s parents are called Kingfisher and Opal (named after birds and sweets)
  • Rooney is named after England forward Wayne, Gerrard after England captain Steven, Banks after 1966 World Cup winning goalkeeper Gordon and Moore after 1966 World Cup winning captain Bobby

You can learn more about our penguins here.