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Emperor Penguin - Largest of the Penguins

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Size

Height: 110 to 130 cm (44 to 52 inches) for average adult.

Weight: 30 to 40 kg (75 to 90 lbs) for average adult.

Description

  • Yellow ear patches on the head fade to pale yellow on the upper breast.
  • Juveniles are covered in fluffy gray down with large white eye patches.
  • Biologically, Emperor penguins are the most interesting of the Antarctic species, able to dive to a depth of more than 1500 feet (450 m) and stay submerged for up to 18 minutes, although the depth and duration of their dives is usually much less.

Feet

  • Black.

Food

  • Fish and a few squid.
  • Undernourishment accounts for many deaths among chicks. The distance between the sea and the chicks determines the feeding frequency. Undernourished chicks are not able to survive in the Antarctic winds and freeze to death quickly.
  • Can hold breath on a dive for 20 minutes and can dive up to 150 times a day.

Rookeries

  • Ice shelves shielded from winds by icebergs or ice cliffs.
  • Instinct returns them to the same breeding site every year, they return to breed when they are 5 years old.

Breading

  • As breeding adults arrive at the colony the female stands in front of a male and invites him to join her in a series of vocalizations. They call, bow their heads andwaddle around in rhythm. These calls and displays allow them to memorize the vocalization of their mate. This enables them to recognize each other when they return to the colony after feeding.
  • After courtship the female returns to the sea to feed, producing this large egg takes much energy. The egg is passed to the male who keeps it off the ice and warm by balancing it on his feet for approximately 62 – 66 days in the dark Antarctic winter. He does this by placing the egg in a fold of abdominal skin above his feet.
  • The males huddle as close as possible with other males in groups often numbering between 5,000 and 6,000. This huddle becomes blizzard-proof when the temperatures drop during the dark winter. Huddling saves about ½ body heat.
  • Before he starts the courtship the male weighs about 10 kg (22 lbs) more than his normal weight, he does not eat for 4 months.
  • The female magically returns when the chick hatches with a crop full of food. The male keeps the chick alive for 10 days after hatching then must go for food or die from starvation.
  • The female then takes responsibility for keeping the chick warm and fed.
  • The male returns with food for the chick then both parents participate equally caring for their chick.
  • Upon returning with food the parents use their unique call and the chick answers with a voice only its parents recognize.
  • Chicks often chase their parents around the colony pestering them for more food. They are fed about 12 to 16 times.
  • In about 5 months the chick will moult its warm fluffy feather parka, be carried out to sea as the ice breaks up and starts diving for its own fish.

Predators

  • Killer Whales and Leopard Seals at the edge of the ice.

Interesting Facts

  • Emperor Penguins when traveling long distances walk and toboggan. They travel both ways for different reasons. Tobogganing, lying down on their belly pushing with their feet and flippers, helps them avoid sinking into the snow, conserves energy and they move faster, but their feathers get damaged.
  • Emperors are the largest diving bird and can make 150 dives a day.
  • Emperors live to about 40 years in the wild and 70 years in captivity.
  • Emperors prevent heat loss by countercurrent system of blood flow, the vessels bringing warm blood from the penguin’s core is tracked alongside vessels bringing blood from the surface which helps the penguin to maintain a constant core temperature.
  • Compared to the size of the adult the Emperor lays the smallest egg of all birds.

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