One Cool Dad

This penguin takes fatherhood seriously
Sanford — This Southern rockhopper penguin (sitting) likes to collect objects. // Photographs by Cybelle Codish

Sanford, a Southern rockhopper penguin (Eudyptes chrysocome), is a real natural at fatherhood. After a female penguin lays an egg, the feathered father spends weeks balancing the egg on its feet, incubating it under what is called a brood pouch. During this time, the father is the sole caregiver. He abstains from eating and produces special milk for the soon-to-hatch chick.

Sanford was born on Isla Noir (off the coast of Chile) around 1983, and arrived in Detroit in 1985. He’s named after Redd Foxx’s junk-dealing character from the ’70s sitcom Sanford and Son due to his obsession with “collecting” things — fish, broken bands, anything he can find — and placing them in his nest. This prolific breeder has offspring at the Detroit Zoo as well as zoos in Indianapolis and Louisville, Ky.

Sanford lives with around 60 other rockhopper, macaroni, and king penguins at the Penguinarium. The unique circular pool gives them the ability to swim fast enough to porpoise and “fly” through the water.

Note: Zoo guests can get up close and personal with the penguins at a special paid experience called “Mingle with the Macaronis.” Groups of up to five people, under the guidance and supervision of a penguin keeper, interact with the penguins (and hand-feed them!), plus get a behind-the-scenes tour of the keeper area and the incubation/nursery area.