Emperor penguins are the most commonly portrayed species in pop culture. They're typically about 45 inches tall and between 77 and 88 pounds. While most people think their wing-like appendages are useless, these wings help them reach depths of up to 900 feet below the water’s surface for hunting, traveling at speeds between 6 and 10 miles per hour. Biologically equipped with thick layers of both blubber and down feathers emperor penguins are prepared for the harsh Antarctica winters, which can go as low as negative 72 degrees Farenheit.
However, what attracts the majority of professional interest are the unique mating habits of these penguins. In May, after two months of carrying the embryo within her, the female will lay a single egg. She then passes the egg to her mate before traveling up to 60 miles to find food. The males in the colony keep the egg perched between their flippers and under a thick roll of skin that they each have, called the brood pouch. This incubation period lasts nine weeks, which causes the males to lose up to one third of their body weight from lack of nourishment.
After the egg hatches, the baby chick remains under the father's brood pouch until it can regulate its own body temperature. At this point, the mother usually returns, allowing the father to leave and get food. The mother brings a stomach full of partially digested food, which she regurgitates into the mouth of her young. Once the father returns, the mother and father will take turns foraging while the other broods the newborn. When January comes and the ice begins to crack, newborns are generally ready to forage on their own.
Penguins are social creatures, as they huddle together for warmth, particularly when the males are incubating the eggs and are especially vulnerable to the Antarctic elements. Emperor Penguins can talk, and they rely on vocal calls as their primary method of communication. They are annually monogamous, meaning males and females have one mate per year and about 15% of them keep mates from year to year.
What's provided here is merely a glimpse into the infinitely fascinating lifestyle and habits of emperor penguins, which are one of just 17 different penguin species. For a full chronicle of these intriguing creatures, one would have to experience them firsthand, which involves a journey to Antarctica. See you there!