“The Knowledge Library”

Knowledge for All, without Barriers…

An Initiative by: Kausik Chakraborty.

“The Knowledge Library”

Knowledge for All, without Barriers……….
An Initiative by: Kausik Chakraborty.

The Knowledge Library

Penguin Facts

Emperor Penguin feeding its chick at Snow Hill Emperor Penguin Colony, Antarctica. Image credit:  Robert Mcgillivray/Shutterstock.com
  • Emperor penguins are the largest penguins in the world. They can grow up to around 115 to 122 cm tall—around the size of an average six-year-old child.
  • Emperor penguins live in large colonies composed of around 5,000 to 10,000 penguins. These colonies are called “Rookery,” “Waddle,” or a “Penguinery.”
  • During harsh cold and windy weather, penguins in the colony will huddle, forming a circle. The youngest members of the colony will stay in the middle of the circle where it is warmest and adults will stay in the outer circles.
But they don’t tap dance and sing like that in real life. Instead, they make loud calls to identify each other which according to scientists can be heard even from a kilometer away!

Here are a few other facts about these fascinating birds that live on the coldest continent.

Scientific Name

The emperor penguin’s scientific name is Aptenodytes forsteri. They’re birds that belong to the family Spheniscidae and one of the two species in the genus Aptenodytes.

Taxonomic Position

  • Phylum: Chordata
  •    Class: Aves
  •       Order: Sphenisciformes
  •           Family: Spheniscidae
  •              Genus: Aptenodytes
  •                   Species: forsteri 
  •                      Binomial Name: Aptenodytes forsteri (Gray, 1844)

Where Do Emperor Penguins Live?

These penguins are endemic to Antarctica, the Earth’s southernmost continent, and is the coldest, windiest, and driest continent on the planet. They spend their lives on Antarctic ice near the waters where they hunt for food. They don’t build nests. Instead, males keep the egg on their feet and cover it with a feathery skin called a brood pouch.

What Does An Emperor Penguin Look Like?

Emperor Penguins Weight: Emperor penguins store fat around their bodies to protect them from the cold thus they can weigh up to 40 kgs.

The body is streamlined and wings are modified into flippers that help them swim in the ocean.

The males and females have similar plumage and size. They have a black head and back, white belly, bright-yellow ear patches, and pale-yellow breast.

Emperor Penguin Diet

Their main diet is fish but they can also eat other marine animals like crustaceans and cephalopods. They find their food in the open seas or cracks in the ice. They are great divers and can dive deeper than any other penguin in the world. They can deep dive to depths of almost 550 meters. They can even stay under the icy cold water for up to 20 full minutes at a time.

Emperor Penguin Life Cycle

The female will lay one egg that weighs over 400 grams then she heads out to sea to look for food. The male will take over and incubate the egg by putting it on his feet. Males keep the egg in a feathery pouch for around 65 days. Males will not eat and instead guard the eggs throughout this period. He will keep it safe and warm throughout bouts of intense cold and chilly Antarctic winds.

Life cycle of emperor penguins.

By July or August, females come back and look for their mate through a loud call. When they find their mate and chick, they feed the chick with fish they brought back from the hunt. They regurgitate food they’ve kept in their belly and then take over taking care of the young penguin. Then it’s the male’s turn to go out and hunt for food. By this time, the male would have already lost around 40% of his body weight.

From this point on, the male and female will take turns hunting and taking care of the chick, keeping the baby warm on their feet. After around a month and a half after hatching the chick can get off the parent’s feet and join other young penguins in a group called crèche.

By November chicks will begin to grow their protective feathers. Come December the slightly warmer weather breaks up the ice exposing more water. By this time the young penguins are big enough to swim and hunt for food on their own.

Emperor Penguin Adaptations

They have thick layers of fat that insulate them from the intense cold. The penguin’s fat reserves, which males use while they’re incubating the egg are around 3-4 centimeters thick.

During harsh cold and windy weather, penguins in the colony will huddle, forming a circle. The youngest members of the colony will stay in the middle of the circle where it’s warmest and adults will stay in the outer circles. They will rotate and move in and out, taking turns being in the outermost layer which is the coldest part of the huddle.

Emperor Penguin Lifespan

Emperor penguins can live up to around 20 to 25 years in the wild. However, some records have indicated that the maximum lifespan of these penguins can be as high as 40 years. Death can be due to disease, predation, starvation, accidents, or the effects of aging.

Emperor Penguin Predators

A typical habitat of emperor penguins. Whales, seals, and sea birds are predators of these birds while fish is their primary prey. 

In water, emperor penguins are attacked primarily by leopard seals and orcas. Leopard seals feed on both adults and fledglings while orcas prefer adults but attack penguins of all ages.

King Penguins Vs Emperor Penguins

There’s also a stark difference between their chicks. An emperor penguin chick is silver-grey with a black head and a white mask-like area around the eyes. King penguin chicks are covered in chocolate-brown plumage.

Emperor Penguin Population And Conservation Status

Scientists get estimates by counting individuals in colonies as seen in satellite images. Recent numbers are at 278,500 breeding pairs. They are currently listed as near threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and is believed to soon become threatened.

Threats To Emperor Penguins

Emperor Penguin Facts

Feature Fact
Scientific Name Aptenodytes forsteri
Classification Bird
Weight up to 40 kg
Body Length 115-122 cm
Speed 6-9 km/hour (swimming)
Diet Carnivore: crustaceans, cephalopods
Lifespan 20-25 yrs
Breeding Time March-April
Egg Incubation 65 days
Nature Social, living in large colonies
Conservation Status Near Threatened

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