Off Beat

A wild penguin in Boston? Not quite, city officials say.

“Am I tripping??? I’m like pretty sure I saw a wild penguin in Boston tonight.”

You’ve probably seen them at the New England Aquarium, sure, but ever come across a wild penguin on the streets of Boston?

Twitter user @_rachelgallegos recently thought they did, sharing two photos of a black-and-white bird that — at first glance — certainly bears a resemblance to the flightless favorites.

“Am I tripping??? I’m like pretty sure I saw a wild penguin in Boston tonight,” they tweeted Sunday.

However, any “Happy Feet” or “Mr. Popper’s Penguins” fantasies were dashed when Boston 311 weighed in on Monday.

“Whoa! We touched base with @AnimalBoston about this one — it is possibly a night heron,” the city services hub tweeted in response. “Penguins typically can’t perch like that due to their webbed feet.”

A black-crowned night-heron, known for their black cap and back. – Derrick Z. Jackson for The Boston Globe, File

According to the National Audubon Society, black-crowned night-herons can be found throughout most of the United States. The “cosmopolitan species” nests on every continent but Australia and Antarctica and can be found in a wide variety of aquatic habitats, per Audubon.


“Seen by day, these chunky herons seem dull and lethargic, with groups sitting hunched and motionless in trees near water,” the organization notes. “They become more active at dusk, flying out to foraging sites, calling ‘wok’ as they pass high overhead in the darkness.”

(For the record, wild penguins mainly stick to the Southern Hemisphere; according to Audubon, the northernmost type, the Galapagos Penguin, can be found just below the Equator on the islands of Fernandina and Isabela.)

“I did not in fact see a penguin,” @_rachelgallegos conceded Tuesday. “BUT IT LOOKED LIKE ONE.”


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