What is the one bird who’s always dressed to impress? The emperor penguin, of course. These flightless birds are one of the biggest birds around and most definitely one of the coolest. Haha, get it!?
Spending their entire lives in one of Earth’s coldest and often darkest environments, these emperor penguin facts are sure to surprise you.
Emperor Penguin Facts
Emperor penguins are pretty cool birds. Although they may not be able to fly, they still have some pretty cool features, fun facts, and even some secrets. The harsh climate of the Antarctic continent is no match for them.
Emperor penguins, Aptenodytes forsteri, are also known as king penguins because of their size. Adult emperor penguins can fall between 3.6 and 4.3ft tall. If you were to stack 4 rulers on top of each other end to end, that is about how tall an emperor penguin is.
Besides being the largest penguin species, emperor penguins are also excellent swimmers. They can stay underwater for about 30 minutes without coming up for air. They also can dive further than 1,500 feet underwater.
To stay under and in the water for such long periods, the emperor penguin has a thick layer of blubber or fat. This layer helps keep them warm in and out of the water. Although these large amounts of fat help the penguin. Emperor penguins also have very unique feathers. The contour feathers provide an unpassable and stiff waterproof cover over a thick, insulative layer of down.
Although emperor penguins live in the southern hemisphere, they are not living on beaches like the African penguins. Emperor penguins live on the continent of Antarctica. The average temperature is negative 71 degrees, and it is dark 24 hours a day for 6 months out of the year. This harsh climate makes it hard for any animal to survive. But these amazing animals do survive, year after year.
When penguins head to the water, they may need to walk up to 50 miles to reach the open ocean. It is important for them to be far away from the sea because they need to ensure the ice will not melt before the emperor penguin chicks are old enough to swim.
Emperor Penguin Lifestyle
Emperor penguins live in large colonies and are very social animals. These large groups of penguins can have up to 20,000 pairs. They become this large because emperor penguins have a pretty long life. The average lifespan of emperor penguins is anywhere from 15 to 20 years.
Emperors feed mostly on a small fish called the Antarctic silverfish. They have also been known to dine on other species, like krill and squid. An adult penguin An adult penguin eats about 4-7 pounds a day. They need to store food for the cold winter months and to be able to feed their chicks.
Emperor penguins are the only penguin species that breed during the Antarctic Winter and the only animal to breed on sea ice. The breeding season begins in early April and lasts through December. In early June, the female emperor penguins leave the colony and head to the ocean’s open waters. The male penguins stay behind at the breeding ground and incubate the eggs.
Baby Emperor Penguins
Each penguin pair will produce one egg. The male penguin is in charge of protecting the egg from the cold at all times. They do so by holding it on the tops of their feet in a secret area called a brood pouch. The emperor penguins will then all huddle together to stay warm and keep each other alive. They will take turns rotating to the outer edge of the group where it is coldest.
An emperor penguin egg hatches in about 65 days and weighs about 5.3-7.8 ounces when they hatch. Once the egg hatches, the emperor penguin chicks are protected by the male. The male, sets the chick on his feet and covers it with his pouch to keep it warm. The baby penguin will eat a white, milky substance produced by the male penguin. When the female returns from feeding, the male leaves to take his turn feeding.
Chicks are not born with a black head like their parents. They are actually mostly gray and fuzzy. This is not fur. It’s a fluffy, downy layer of feathers. These feathers help protect baby penguins from the harsh cold of their environments. It will take the babies about one year to grow all of their adult feathers.
At about a month old, the baby penguins are too big to be carried on the feet of their parents and will start to walk around on their own. This is when they will form a nursery group. While some parents are out at sea, other penguins watch over the baby penguins. When the parents return, they call out to their chick and can determine which one is theirs.
A baby penguin also uses this nursery group as protection. A baby penguin can be eaten by the giant petrel, this group offers the chicks support and allow the adult penguins to keep an eye a bunch of their babies at once.
Emperor Penguin Predators
Although emperor penguins are larger penguins, they still have predators. They are often preyed upon by killer whales, leopard seals, and the giant petrel. The most dangerous predator of the emperor penguin is the leopard seal. This seal can eat about 15 penguins a day. They often will try and succeed at catching the weak or the very sick.
Some penguin species “play dead, ” meaning they will go stiff in the water and act as if they are not alive. This causes the leopard seal or other predator to lose interest in the penguin and swim away.
Another “predator” of the emperor penguin is global warming and climate change. The emperor penguin is at risk of extinction because of rising global temperatures and sea ice loss. Due to this, many emperor penguin colonies are trying to breed on ice cliffs. The emperor penguin is on the US Endangered Species list as threatened and has been on this list since 2022. It is our responsibility to help save this species from extinction!
Fun Penguin Facts
These interesting facts about penguins may surprise and delight you!
- The first penguin was discovered in the year 1840 during the French Antarctic expedition.
- There are 19 species of penguins, and they mostly live in the southern hemisphere.
- A group of penguins in the water is called a raft, but on land, they’re called a waddle.
- Penguins poop every 20 minutes.
- They spend nearly 50% of their lives in the water and the other 50% on land.
- A penguin’s black and white coloring is called counter-shading. It helps camouflage from predators above and below them.
- Some species of penguins can swim at speeds over 10 miles per hour.
- They can drink seawater.
- Penguins don’t have teeth.
These are just a few fun facts about penguins.
You’ve probably watched a movie or two focused around these black and white birds, whether you watched Happy Feet or Match of the Penguins. These flightless birds are some of Earth’s most amazing and interesting creatures. Penguins have many distinct characteristics, personalities, and ways of living that are like no other bird species.