Freckled Flock

No, they don’t all look alike! Each penguin has spots on its chest that look a lot like freckles, plus different feather markings, eye colors, and beak shapes.

At the Santa Barbara Zoo, the penguins wear wingtags – females have them on left wings, males on the right.

The birds also have been given names either by donors or by keepers, like Monty and El Rey.

Some birds are distinctive:

  • Bingo is the largest and tips the scales at up to 6 kilos (13 pounds)
  • Plum is the dominant female and keeps other penguins in their places
  • Pinga is super sweet and gentle
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Feeding the Flock

Keepers can’t just put out a bowl of fish for penguins – the more dominant birds would edge out the timid ones. So keepers feed each bird by hand, keeping track of how much each penguin eats. It’s a two-person job, with one keeper feeding and the other keeping the records.


Each morning we come in and count the birds, and there’s always something going on. Penguins are braying at each other, protecting their territories, and interacting in all kinds of ways. It is never quiet, except maybe when they are napping.

Liz B.
A fond farewell

The Legend of Lucky

Lucky, the Humboldt penguin who made national headlines for wearing a specially designed shoe, was humanely euthanized on May 20, 2020, after battling a degenerative foot condition.

Born in 2010 with an impaired foot, Lucky defied the odds by living an incredibly full life. For ten years, he was supported by a dedicated team made up of the Zoo’s own animal care staff, the incredibly generous team at Teva, and countless other veterinarians, specialists, and more – all of whom helped extend his life far beyond what it otherwise would have been. Recently, his degenerative foot condition worsened to the point of being untreatable, and the difficult decision was made for humane euthanasia.

Lucky’s remarkable story made news headlines across the country, including a feature on the “Today Show.” Two books have been written about Lucky and his shoe, and he even became a YouTube sensation with the release of Parry Gripp’s song, Penguin With A Funky Shoe.

Zoolife Livestream Webcam

Watch the Zoo’s penguins live on Zoolife!

When you sign up for Zoolife, 80% of the proceeds directly fund the Santa Barbara Zoo’s animal care and conservation efforts.

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Conservation Status

Humboldt penguins are listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Primary threats in their native range include entanglement in fishing nets; illegal capture for food, bait, and the pet trade; and historic over-harvesting of guano (needed by the birds for nesting) for fertilizer.

There are only so many fish in the sea.

By buying sustainable seafood, you can help provide a healthy future for the oceans and the animals that depend on them. Pick up a Seafood Watch guide at the Zoo’s restaurants to help make the best seafood purchasing decisions.