CINCINNATI - As curator of birds and mammals at the Newport Aquarium, Ric Urban, is treated like king of the birds.
"When they come up to meet another penguin there's usually a tap by the wing on the back and saying, 'Hey buddy, how is it going.' Tap, tap, tap. If you see me in with these birds, I'm usually giving them a light tap just to let them know that I'm in here now and everything will be all right," Urban said.
There are six different penguin species. Urban says the 60 plus birds will eat up to 200 pounds of fish each day and weigh between five and 45 pounds.
"When they're most hungriest, they'll eat 40 fish the size of a dollar bill. That is amazing. That is like me eating 100 cheeseburgers," Urban said with a laugh.
You better watch your fingers when it's feeding time.
"The pecking is all part of the socialization. I'm part of the pecking order in the group," Urban said.
When asked how many times he had been pecked, Urban replied, "Quite a few times. There's no hand modeling career in my future."
Urban says children love petting the penguins.
You'll also find another guest that's more than willing to hold out her hand at the Penguin Encounter after her beau has surprised her with an engagement ring.
"To have your guy and gal come in and the guy says I want you to be part of my life forever. It's kind of a penguin thing. It's almost like in 'Happy Feet' the song. He likes her song. She likes his song. You find the person that you're going to be bound with for the rest of your life," said Urban.
Most of the visitors get to see the penguins at the exhibit or through the penguin encounter, but you can get even closer to the animals by volunteering.
"That was one of the most thrilling days of my life. To be able to get in the tank and see the animals and work with them," said volunteer, Lisa Haynes-Henry.
You can get your feet wet by checking out the Penguin Encounter.
The cost is $25 per guest.
Don't forget to bring your camera.
It's a moment you'll definitely want to share with your friends.
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