Aussie same-sex penguin ‘couple’ given a real egg to look after

Male penguins that paired up as ‘same-sex’ couple and were given a dummy egg to foster at Australian zoo, prove such good parents they have been given a real egg to look after

  • Sphen and Magic the penguins have coupled up at Sea Life Sydney
  • After building a nest together, they were given a plastic egg to look after
  • Having displayed excellent hatching skills, they’re now fostering an egg
  • Another Gentoo penguin couple had two eggs, so one was given to ‘Sphengic’ 

Two male penguins who have paired up as a ‘same-sex couple’ at a zoo in Sydney, have proven to be so good at nesting that keepers have given them a real egg to look after.

Gentoo penguins Sphen and Magic had become ‘inseparable’, and after building their own pebble nest for breeding season, they were given a dummy egg by staff at Sea Life Sydney.

However, when staff saw how well they cared for the plastic egg, they replaced it with a real egg from another penguin couple who had two. 

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True love: Male penguins Sphen and Magic coupled up at Sea Life Sydney Aquarium in Sydney, Australia ahead of breeding season and built their own pebble nest

Sea Life Sydney staff say the couple – now collectively nicknamed ‘Sphengic’ – are ‘naturals’ at penguin parenting.

The pair are incubating their charge well enough that ‘there are often days where the egg cannot be seen,’ a statement from the zoo said.


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But there is some room for parental improvement, with staff saying younger penguin Magic is still mastering the skill.

The Gentoo is the world’s third largest penguin species, known for its bright red-orange bill and white mark around the eye. 

During breeding season, Gentoo penguins keep their eggs warm on pebble nesting rings which they build together. 

Parents-to-be: Video footage shows Magic on hatch-duty in their pebble nest, while Sphen is seen fetching a heart-shaped pebble for him

After proving naturals at hatching a dummy egg, the zoo gave them a real one to look after

The parents swap duties daily, while one incubates the egg, and the other wards off any pebble thieves.

This is not the first time same-sex penguin couples have adopted eggs in captivity, with a handful of zoos worldwide reporting similar cases.

In 2009, two male penguins – Z and Vielpunkt – successfully hatched and reared a chick that was was rejected by its heterosexual parents at a zoo in Berlin.

Before them came Roy and Silo, two male chinstrap penguins at a zoo in New York who were spotted frequently trying to mate with each other. 

After they tried to incubate a rock, zookeepers gave them a foster egg which they successfully hatched. 

Their foster chick, a female called Tango, eventually paired up with another female.

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