Emperor Penguin

Emperor Penguin

Scientific name: Aptenodytes forsteri
Size: 36.7 kg (m), 28.4kg (f)
Nest type: breed on sea ice in winter, egg carried on feet
Favourite food: fish and squid

The Emperor Penguin is a bird of extremes in just about every way. It breeds during the Antarctic winter and exhibits many adaptations to the extreme cold that these birds experience when breeding.

The Emperor Penguin is bigger than any other living penguin, standing up to 1.1 m tall. It is distinguished from the smaller King Penguin by its size, more robust stature, and a broad pale yellow connection between the orange-yellow ear patches and the pale yellow upper breast. Immature birds resemble adults but are smaller and have a white rather than black chin. Ear patches are whitish, becoming increasingly yellow with age.

Breeds during the Antarctic winter from March to December. Eggs and chicks are balanced on the feet to prevent them from coming into contact with the ice. No nests are built, which allows the colony to move around and huddle close together, providing some protection from the cold. The male is solely responsible for the two-month incubation of the egg during the heart of winter in almost continuous darkness. If the female has not returned by the time of hatching, the male is able to feed the chick for a short time with a “milk” secreted from the oesophagus.

Distribution: map
Breeds during the Antarctic winter in about 30 colonies around the southern parts of the Antarctic continent, usually on fast ice. Probably depends a lot upon polynias – areas of open water surrounded by sea ice – during winter.

Migration and Vagrancy:
Little is known about post-breeding dispersal or migration. Adults stay close to the permanent ice for most of their lives. Juveniles equipped with satellite transmitters, however, migrated as far north as the polar front. Vagrants have turned up on the South Shetland Islands, Tierra del Fuego, the Falklands, South Sandwich Islands, Kerguelen Island, Heard Island, and New Zealand.

Fish, cephalopods and krill are taken to varying degrees, though cephalopods and fish probably represent the major components of the diet, especially in terms of mass.
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