The chicks now weigh 4.9 pounds and 3.8 pounds. Fully grown right around Christmas, they'll be 23 to 25 inches tall, will weigh about 8 pounds and will be fully decked out in black-and-white plumage. The chicks are not part of the Rock Island exhibit; the rest of the flock is on display daily through December from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Once Male One and Male Two get the hang of being wet, the keepers will fill a small pool halfway with water and shoo the birds in. This march of the penguins will happen three times a day, every day, until the lessons take.

"It's just a lot of repetition," Wlaz said. "For each bird, it will click at a different point. Some we'll put in and they'll take to it. Some will run and jump out like it's molten lava. One day they realize that it's the coolest thing in the world and they start diving and swimming and then it's pretty much impossible to get them out."

Soon, they may have siblings. The parents have produced another clutch, but zoo staff has yet to check the eggs to see if they're fertile, zoo spokeswoman Jane Ballentine said.

And four other penguin pairs are expected to breed this season.

That's a lot of swimming lessons.

candy.thomson@baltsun.com



African penguins



Home: South Africa and Namibia

Eggs: 2 at a time per mating couple

Incubation: 38 to 42 days

Diet: Smelt, sardines, squid

Swim speed: Up to 12 mph

Natural enemies: Sharks, Cape fur seals

Life span: Up to 15 years in the wild; 29 years in captivity

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