Watch: Aussie Penguin Dads Ready to Try for Second Chick

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Wednesday November 6, 2019

Famed Australian couple Sphen and Magic, a pair of male Gentoo penguins, shot to global fame last year when they fostered an egg and successfully hatched and cared for a female chick that staff at Sea Life Aquarium in Sydney dubbed Sphengic.

Now the gay penguin dads are fostering a second egg. Sea Life Aquarium staff are not certain that the new egg is fertile, but they gave it to the couple because Sphen and Magic - like other penguin families - had constructed a new nest with the start of the mating season, signaling their readiness to become parents a second time.

If fertile, the new egg will be saved from likely death. Most penguin couples can only successfully raise a single egg at a time. When they happen to have two eggs, the second egg usually does not survive.

The world's press is already watching to see if the couple will have a new bundle of joy. They are acting in concert toward the goal: UK newspaper the Daily Mail noted that Sphen and Magic worked as a team when caring for their first egg, "and seem to be doing the same for the new egg."

The couple attracted attention - and were given their first egg to foster - when aquarium staff noticed them showing all the same signs of eagerness for parenthood as other penguin couples.

As EDGE reported in October of 2018, the aquarium put out a news release detailing how the couple were devoted parents from the start.

"Whilst Sphen is older and is excellent at incubating, Magic is younger and still mastering his skill," the aquarium's release noted. "The pair make a great team, and there are often days where the egg can not be seen (which is really good for penguin breeding!)."

The couple's first chick, Sphengic, hatched on Oct. 19, 2018.

UK newspaper the Daily Mail reported on how the aquarium's staff took note of how to two "had an instant connection" and "developed a strong bond just before breeding season" last year. The couple built a nest of pebbles, just as other couples were doing, and when they were provided with a "dummy egg" to care for they took right to it. Impressed, the staff provided them with a real egg, which - then as now - came from a couple that had two eggs to care for.

"Meet Sea Life Syndey's coolest couple," a post at the attraction's Facebook page invites. The post includes a video of Sphen and Magic adding a heart-shaped pebble to their nest.

Perhaps the most celebrated story of two penguin dads raising a chick is that of Roy and Silo, a male penguin couple at New York's Central Park Zoo whose nurturing of a chick named Tango inspired the children's book "And Tango Makes Three."

Alas, spoilsports are everywhere, and for several years running the book topped the American Library Association's annual List of Challenged Books — that is, books that people have tried to get removed from libraries. As recently as last year, "Tango" was on the list once again, reportedly for "LGBT content" (gasp!), though it was no longer in the Number One spot.

Sea Life Aquarium posts regularly about Open and Magic and their small (and, maybe, growing) family. The aquarium recently added a video celebrating Sphengic's first birthday. As the new mating season got underway and Sphen and Magic remained together, the aquarium posted a fresh update, detailing how the "power couple" had constructed the "largest and most beautiful and possibly neatest nest in the entire exhibit."

The new video featured clips from last year, including the moment when Sphen presented Magic with a "special stone" - an offering that, the video says, is the penguin equivalent of a proposal.

Watch the Sealife Aquarium video below.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.