What are emperor penguins? Where do they live? What do they eat? Can they fly? How do they look after their chicks? What are their predators? How do they adapt themselves in the cold weather conditions? How do they look like? What is their physical structure? How do they manage to swim for a long time?
Emperor penguins are the tallest, largest and heaviest of all the modern living species of the penguins. They are found in Antarctica. Length, size and plumage of male and female emperor penguins are exactly the same. Their weights range from 25 to 45 kg. Like all other penguins, they are marine flightless birds. In the wild, their life span is almost 20 years but in exceptional and rare cases, it is up to 50 years.
- Emperor penguins are the only species of penguins that breed during the Antarctic winters. The female lays a single egg and the male incubates it for more than two months.
Length of the emperor penguins.
- Their length is approximately 120 cm including sharp bill and soft tail. They’re one of the top five heavy species of the birds that are alive today.
Weight of emperor penguins.
- Males are heavier in weight than females. Decrease in weights of both male and female penguins is seen during hatching and incubating their eggs.
Why do the weight of emperor penguins decrease?
- Decrease in weight of the male penguins is due to the reason that they themselves incubate their eggs and try to keep the eggs warm for the period of two months. In this period, female penguins go in search of food. It is observed that a male penguin approximately loses 12 kg weight during this period of two months. He doesn’t eat food properly these days. So the overall weight loss of both the mates is 23 kg.
Survival rate of the emperor penguins.
- Survival rate of penguins’ chick during the first year of their life is only about 20%. 80% of the adult population comprises adult penguins.
Diet of the emperor penguins.
- Main diet of the emperor penguins is fish, but they also consume crustaceans and cephalopods.
Appearance of emperor penguins.
- They are quite interesting in their appearance. The Dorsal side of their body is black including the head. The under parts of wings and belly are white. Ear patches are bright yellow. Dorsal feathers of emperor penguins are deep black in color. They have yellow trim around the neck.
Emperor penguins are the deepest diving marine birds.
- These are the deepest diving creatures and can dive up to 550 metres. They not only hunt in the open seas but also find their food in the cracks of ice. Unlike flying birds, they don’t have hollow bones, instead they have evolved solid bones to deal with the pressure of water. They store large quantities of oxygen in their bodies and utilize this oxygen during diving. It helps them to breathe. Moreover they reduce the metabolism rate and blood flow to adapt themselves in the deep, cold seawater. They can stay up to 20 minutes in the water at a time. Being birds, it is a very remarkable ability to stay in water for such a long time.
Social activities of emperor penguins.
- Emperor penguins socialize to one another by making very large colonies with each colony consisting of thousands of emperor penguins including the adults as well as chicks. A conservative estimate shows that each colony of emperor penguin may consist of up to 5000 penguins, ranging up to 10,000. These colonies are referred to as rookeries or waddles.
Huddling behavior of emperor penguins.
- While living in colonial form, the emperor penguins exhibit the huddling behavior as well. During the harsh and windy Antarctic environment, these penguins arrange themselves in the form of large circles, keeping their chicks in the center. As we know that penguin chicks are very vulnerable to changing weather conditions because they are not waterproof and cannot withstand harsh climatic conditions. Their feathers don’t have any kind of oil layer for insulation against cold, so these tiny creatures need extra care which is provided to them during the huddling process. These youngest members remain in the middle and enjoy the warmest living place. The adult penguins cover the outer portion of the circle.
Do emperor penguins waddle?
- Emperor penguins waddle at very high speeds. On land, they move at the rate of 2.5 km per hour. It shows that even they can’t fly, but they walk very speedily. During their course, if they find the downslope of ice, they start tobogganing. It means that they start plopping down on their bellies and cover the distance till the end of the slope. Their speeds are even faster than before while tobogganing. They not only waddle too fast on the land but also they swim very briskly in the water. They can reach speeds of about 15 km/h in certain conditions, for example, if they have to find someone in a hurry, or to escape their predators.
Feeding season of the emperor penguins.
- Emperor penguins feed a lot during the months of January, February and March. These three month are called feeding season for the penguins. They fatten their bodies because they know that they will have to suffer a lot during the incubation period and they won’t be able to eat properly.
Mating and courtship in emperor penguins.
- Penguins start moving to their breeding grounds in the month of April. They travel 50 to 100 kilometers on the land of Antarctica to reach their breeding sites. The process of mating occurs during the month of May. Firstly, the penguins make the use of mating calls which help them in courtship and attract the females towards them. Their call lasts for about 2 seconds. At the end of the calls, mating pairs are formed and females come near to their respective partners. During the call, penguins boost up their bodies and push their bills to their chests. This ceremony makes the proper couple of penguins and paired mates start moving and waddling together. Both the partners.
Emperor penguins don’t build their nesting sites.
- lt should be kept in mind that unlike other penguins, emperor penguins do not build their nesting sites. As a result, they keep their eggs in their feet and brood patches.
Why don’t the female emperor penguin incubate her eggs?
- The nutritional stores of female penguin exhaust after laying the egg and she immediately goes for getting seafood. Now the male penguin has to take care of the eggs. Mostly, she doesn’t return before the hatching of the eggs. If the mother doesn’t come back on time, male penguin starts feeding the chick. It coughs out a soft bolus from its esophagus and feeds the chick. In the beginning of the August, female penguins return back to their homes and now they take the responsibility of the chicks.
How do emperor penguins adapt themselves for breathing in water?
- Emperor penguins have unusual, differently structured hemoglobin that works efficiently even in the less availability of oxygen and helps them to dive effortlessly in the water. It basically works by lowering the activities of non-essential organs and increasing the bird supply towards essential organs like heart, brain and kidneys. As we know that penguins lack gills so they can’t breathe in water using oxygen of the water. In other terrestrial organisms, such stressful conditions of low oxygen can cause barotrauma and their respiratory systems cease to function. Mechanical barotrauma cannot occur to penguins because their bones are not hollow.
Predators of emperor penguins.
- Birds and aquatic mammals are the predators of emperor penguins. Their land predators include petrels, skuas and aquatic predators include leopards seals and orcas. Leopard seals and orcas are the aquatic mammals which try to chase and kill the emperor penguins. Orcas mostly attack adult emperor penguins.
How do emperor penguins adapt to cold weather conditions?
- Emperor penguins are adapted to very cold weather conditions. The average body temperature of emperor penguins is 39°C. But they have adapted themselves to much colder climatic conditions. During the breeding season, the air temperature may reach up to -40°C and wind speed may reach up to 144 km/hour. Ther feathers provide excellent defense against the cold. The density of feathers even increases in the breeding season. Preening helps the penguins to keep the plumage waterproof and oily. These feathers also provide insulation against the cold during the diving process. Air is trapped under the feathers and helps in thermoregulation of the penguins’ bodies. The average swimming speed of emperor penguins is up to 9km.
How do emperor penguins deal with humans?
- The emperor penguin is a very gigantic and powerful bird. Six men are needed to overcome and capture a single emperor penguin. They resist a lot, make angry expressions and do not like human beings when they try to hold them.
This was all about emperor penguins.Although there are more interesting facts about them.