What better time to visit Birdland Park & Gardens to meet the World’s Most Popular Penguin?
Spike, the famous 15-year-old resident King Penguin, has earned the crown after winning a global competition run by Penguins International, but the spotlight will also shine on his illustrious counterparts on Tuesday (April 25), when Birdland will celebrate World Penguin Day.
The Gloucestershire attraction is home to England’s only colony of king penguins and they are the only breeding group left in the UK.
Head Keeper Alistair Keen said: “At Birdland we are part of the European Endangered Species Programmes and I sit on the King Penguin Committee. We are committed to increasing the numbers and health of the endangered avian species.
“World Penguin Day is a great opportunity for us to showcase what amazing creatures king penguins are. Visitors can learn interesting and little-known facts about the colony at Penguin Shore and get inspired to help protect these amazing birds,” he added.
The kings – which are the world’s second largest species after Emperors – have been enjoying their new enclosure Penguin Shore since last summer, when it reopened after an extensive redesign and renovation.
There are daily keeper talks on penguins at Birdland and feeding displays take place at 11am and 2.30pm, when visitors can find out more about the individual personalities of the penguins and how couples will often pair up for life.
World Penguin Day was created by American researchers who noticed that the Adelie penguins began their migration around April 25 each year. They founded the day to mark the migration and to raise awareness of penguins, many species of which are endangered.
Meet the King Penguins at Birdland
Spike was hand-reared by keepers after being abandoned as an egg in 2007. He is the go-to penguin for any modelling, TV work or photoshoots and his credits include working with publishing company DK books, McVities Biscuits and appearing on TV with Sir David Attenborough.
He also has quite the social media presence with accounts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Spike can be recognised by having the longest beak of the group.
Seth is now the oldest male king penguin in Europe, Asia or Australia having hatched at Birdland as an imported egg in 1985.
He is the last remaining penguin to star in the movie Batman Returns. In the film he is part of the Penguins army who try to take over Gotham City and you can see Seth is several scenes swimming around and at one point wearing a rocket launcher.
Frank is the largest of the group, is slightly pinker on the side of his beak and always looks half asleep as he is so chilled out. This is partially where he is hand-reared, but more so because all the girls love Frank – he has been Birdland’s best breeding male for a number of years.
Maggie is the youngest of the kings and perhaps the most important member of the group, Maggie is the youngest female by nearly 20 years and is the only member of the kings not bred at Birdland, having hatched in Denmark.
Being Danish and Viking, she stomps everywhere, making much more noise when she walks than anyone else. She also has a prominent tinge of green/yellow on top of her head, which none of the other penguins have.
Lily was hatched in 1990 and she is now starting to look her age. She has always been a very small, petite penguin but has also lost sight in one of her eyes recently but is still active and mobile. She made an impromptu TV appearance this week when she stood next to head keeper Alistair Keen whilst he was interviewed on BBC Breakfast.
Lily has been one of our best ever breeding king penguins over all the years that we have kept kings, having several chicks in the past. It is however unlikely she will breed now at her age, but she was still laying eggs in 2021, although very small.
Bill hatched in 1994 and was originally thought to be male, hence the name. Then in 2000 she laid an egg which is impossible for male birds to do, so she is definitely a female, but we’ve kept the name of Bill. That egg turned out to be Frank, so Bill is Spike’s grandmother. She can be recognised by having the shortest beak of the group.