The Emperor Penguin (Aptenodytes forsteri) is the tallest and heaviest of all living penguin species and is mainly living Antarctica. The male and female are similar in height and size: 122 cm in height and weighing anywhere from 22 to 45 kg. Their dorsal side and head are black and sharply delineated from the white belly, pale-yellow breast and bright-yellow ear patches. Like all penguins it can’t fly, instead wings stiffened and flattened into flippers for a marine habitat. They live and breed at the beginning of winter, on the fast ice all around the Antarctic continent. The total population is estimated to be about 200,000 breeding pairs. Emperor penguins can mate when they are 4 years old and can live to be 20 years of age.
The penguins start courtship in March or April, when the temperature can be as low as −40 °C. A lone male will stand still and place its head on its chest before inhaling and giving a courtship call for 1–2 seconds. After that, it will move around the colony and repeat the call. Before copulation, the birds bows deeply to each other. Emperor Penguins are serially monogamous. They have only one mate each year, and stay faithful to that mate.
Breeding pairs of emperor penguins face a problem as they don’t have breeding territories. Therefore, they defend their partnership by staying together during this period.This defense extends to their vocalizing — they remain silent until the egg is laid, so that an unpaired penguin can’t disrupt them.
Yet to keep warm and conserve energy during mating season, emperors must huddle with hundreds of other birds. Huddles form for a few hours, break up for a while and re-form again with different birds, over and over during the Antarctic winter. It’s the penguin equivalent of a mosh pit.
So how does a silent pair of emperors avoid becoming separated amid all the confusion? The answer, according toa study in The Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, is that they stick close by each other in the crowd.
(Image source: http://www2.macleans.ca)
After the female lays its egg, it transfers to the male who will incubate it, alone, for several months.The female will return to care for the chick once it hatches; at that time the male will go to the open sea to feed. The male will return in a few weeks and both male and female will tend to the chick by keeping it warm and feeding it food from their stomachs.
After 7 weeks of care, the chicks form groups called “crèches” and huddle together for protection and warmth. They are still fed by the parents. The chicks know their parents by the sound of their call. The chicks are fully grown in 6 months, which is the beginning of the summer season in the Antarctic. At this time all the penguins will return to the open sea.
(Image source: Telegraph)
Breeding Penguin Couples Stay Close in a Crowd.
Emperor penguins behavior
Emperor penguin mates: keeping together in the crowd