VISITORS have been warned that the penguins will not be looking like their usual selves this season.

Colchester Zoo has issued a message to visitors about the current state of the Humboldt penguins at the zoos’ Inca Trail.

The huddle of Humboldt penguins at the zoo are going through their moulting season.

They experience the ‘catastrophic moult’ every year where they gain weight, lose their old feathers and grow new ones.

Humboldt penguins are classed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.


At the last assessment in 2020 from the IUCN, they found that the population is decreasing with the number of mature individuals being at 23,800.

Colchester Zoo penguins Bruce and Slammer can be seen in their enclosure missing a few feathers in the photographs taken by the animal care team.

They are unable to hunt for food when they are moulting and will therefore stay on land until their plumage is back at its best.

A representative from Colchester Zoo said: “Although they may look rather untidy, this natural process is vital to maintaining their waterproof coats.

“This process lasts for around two weeks for each penguin.

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“The Animal Care Team always know when the moult is about to start as the penguins start to gain lots of weight.

“During their moulting period, parts of their body will become bare and without feathers, leaving their insulation and waterproofing compromised.


“The extra weight gained will allow them to live off their fat reserves whilst they finish their moulting and are able to hunt again.

“All of our Humboldt Penguins are currently at different stages of their moult, so don’t worry if they all look a little different to one another.

“This is a natural process that happens each year around this time.”