Penguins parade around Pittsburgh Zoo


Sarah Cutshall | Senior Staff Photographer

Several penguins waddled around at Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium’s media preview of “Penguins on Parade” on Wednesday.

By Sarah Connor, Culture Editor

For Jessica Ries, her days consist of watching after and taking care of penguins at the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium. Every Saturday and Sunday in December, guests to the zoo have the opportunity to experience a waddling penguin up close and personal without the usual glass of the exhibit in the way.

Sarah Cutshall | Senior Staff Photographer

The zoo calls this event “Penguins on Parade,” and though it is every weekend, it’s also dependent on the weather. It must be 45 degrees or colder outside to be a comfortable temperature for the birds. The parade consists of about 11 or 12 penguins waddling around the entrance to the PPG Aquarium for the many guests who line up each Saturday and Sunday.

“It’s all voluntary, so I just open the exhibit door and say ‘come on let’s go’ and the group that wants to come out comes out,” Reis, the zoo’s penguin keeper, said. “We make sure we bring both species out, we have Gentoo and Macaroni penguins.”

The penguins were seen chasing snowflakes and catching clumps of snow in their beaks during the Penguins on Parade media preview Dec. 5. Each penguin had a band around its wing. This, Reis said, is for identification.

Sarah Cutshall | Senior Staff Photographer

“You actually can’t tell if a penguin is male or female unless you do a blood test, so that’s what the bands are for — identifying them. So they all have names, this is Elsa,” she said, pointing to a penguin by her feet. “We have Mambo over there to the left, he’s one of our beefiest penguins.”

On a regular parade morning, there are plenty of families with young children lining up to see the waddling birds.

Sarah Cutshall | Senior Staff Photographer

“[My favorite part is] truly, how happy it makes the children. I mean, kids come, they get so excited. Just the laughter and the shrieks of excitement is one of the best things,” she said. “Seeing how much joy these animals bring to people is one of the best parts of my job.”

Sarah Cutshall | Senior Staff Photographer

Penguins on Parade runs every Saturday and Sunday in December at 11:30 a.m., weather permitting. The parade is included with Pittsburgh Zoo admission.