The penguins have come home to roost at the Oregon Zoo. After two years of shivering next to the polar bear exhibit ("They could definitely hear the bears through the walls," says birdkeeper Mary Jo Andersen), the zoo's 16 Humboldt penguins returned to find their penguinarium has a new water- and air-filtration system. We talked to birdkeepers Andersen, Gwen Harris and Melissa Arnold about the personalities of these South American birds.
Mochica (No. 7, above)
Mochica is the charming, sexually ambiguous penguinarium greeter. The 20-year-old elder statesman was originally thought to be female because he was both small and submissive, hence his name. Mochica is a lifelong celibate because he identifies himself more with people. A bit of a foot fetishist, the tiny bird might hump your shoe—something zookeepers call a "boothug." Reportedly, he's even had relations with one of Gov. John Kitzhaber's cowboy boots.
How you know him: A black armband on his right wing says "Chica." This year he also molted funny, so his feathers are uneven.
Mojito is the bruiser of the bunch. The 6-year-old scored his current mate, Bonita, by picking up her former mate and dumping him into the water. It's kind of like what Bluto keeps doing to Popeye before the spinach. His big cranium looks like a helmet, and his gun show is so impressive that zoo staff couldn't fit the standard ID band around his girthy flippers.
How you know him: He's the tallest and biggest, with a crazy melon of a head. He also has a blue zip tie around his right flipper.
The Bling Enthusiast
Vivo is one of the youngest birds at 5 years old, and she can't help it: She's way into shinies. Yes, the birds can see you just fine through the penguinarium glass, and if you've got those old-school Nikes with the heels that light up, Vivo will kiss the glass with her beak. Don't be too flattered: She also chases water from hoses. "When she sees motion," says senior birdkeeper Gwen Harris, "she probably just thinks you're a fish."
How you know her: Prominent white freckles on her cheeks and a left black armband that says "Vivo."
Penguins live only about 20 years in the wild, but Hermosa is a feisty 28. She's half-blind and probably batshit crazy, and the other penguins let her do whatever the hell she wants, up to and including snatching their fish.
How you know her: A black band on her left flipper says "h'mosa." (Female penguins have left bands, males right.)
GO: Oregon Zoo, 4001 SW Canyon Road, 226-1561, oregonzoo.org. 9 am-4pm daily. Zoolights display 5-8 pm daily (8:30 pm Friday and Saturday) until Dec. 31.
WEDNESDAY NOV. 28
SATURDAY DEC. 1
SUNDAY DEC. 2
TUESDAY DEC. 4