The Effects of Personality upon Breeding Success in Humboldt Penguins (Spheniscus humboldti)

Laura Knowles, Mary Farrell, V. Tamara Montrose

    Research output: Contribution to conferencePosterpeer-review

    148 Downloads (Pure)


    Humboldt penguins (Spheniscus humboldti) are a vulnerable species commonly kept within UK zoological collections. However, in captivity, their breeding success is half that of their wild counterparts. Past research has tended to focus on determining optimal breeding conditions, however personality may also be a determinant of breeding success. The aim of this study was to determine whether personality affects breeding success in captive Humboldt Penguins.

    Personality profiles were created for 30 individual Humboldt penguins (15 pairs), housed at ZSL London zoo. Personality was assessed using keeper questionnaires considering interactions with conspecifics and human-animal interactions, novel object testing (via three separately presented novel objects: bamboo wind chime, glitter ball and an abacus) and behavioural observations. For the behavioural observations, each individual was observed for a total of two hours over a two-month period via continuous focal sampling. Breeding success was assessed in terms of number of eggs laid, number of eggs hatched and number of chicks fledged. Data on breeding success were obtained from the Zoological Information Management System (ZIMS) for 2014-2017. Principal component analysis was used to create personality dimensions, and individuals were rated as high/low on each dimension. Chi square tests were then used to determine if there was an association between each personality dimension and reproductive success.

    Three personality dimensions were identified: dominant, sociable and shy toward people. Penguins that were less sociable and shyer toward people showed greatest reproductive success and produced more eggs, chicks and fledglings. These findings suggest that personality can affect breeding success in Humboldt penguins and is a factor that should be considered in captive breeding programmes. Interventions such as providing more nest sites away from public access and reducing keeper interactions to a minimum may be beneficial in enhancing reproductive success in captive Humboldt penguins.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication statusPublished - 6 Dec 2018
    EventAssociation for the Study of Animal Behaviour Winter meeting 2018 - Zoological Society of London, London, United Kingdom
    Duration: 6 Dec 20187 Dec 2018


    ConferenceAssociation for the Study of Animal Behaviour Winter meeting 2018
    Abbreviated titleASAB Winter 2018
    Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


    Dive into the research topics of 'The Effects of Personality upon Breeding Success in Humboldt Penguins (Spheniscus humboldti)'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this