Wild Fact #766 – Standing Tall – Emperor Penguin
Since it is the middle of summer for me and my Northern Hemisphere friends I figured we could all use a break from the heat and humidity. Actually, I don’t really need a break since the Yukon hasn’t been unbearably warm but that is not the point. In order to get some relief from the pesky summer sun we are heading to Antarctica to learn about one of the most fascinating birds, the Emperor Penguin. You can’t tell me you are not excited to learn about the largest penguin species.
The Emperor Penguin is endemic to Antarctica and can weigh anywhere between 22 to 45 kg (49 to 99 lbs). I am sure we can all see the problem with living in Antarctica, which is how the heck do you deal with the cold. Just so you know these flightless birds will often have to put up with temperatures as low as minus 60 degrees Celsius (-76 degrees Fahrenheit). Maybe taking a field trip here wasn’t such a good idea. I am getting a chill just thinking about all of the snow and ice. Luckily the Emperor Penguins are smart and will all huddle together to keep warm and block out the frigid wind chill. Usually they will form a circle and they will take turns standing in the middle to warm up from the cold. It is interesting how they realize the importance of helping each other so they can all survive.
The crazy thing about these penguins is they will even breed during this harsh season. Talk about uncomfortable! The female will usually lay a single egg and immediately leave it behind while she goes out on an extended hunting trip. In some case she may have to travel as far as 80 km (50 miles) just to reach the open water so she can feed on fish, squid and other aquatic animals. While she is out hunting the male will stay home and protect that single egg. Unlike most birds he will not sit on the egg. Nope he prefers to stand and protect the egg from the harsh elements by balancing it on his feet and covering it up with his feathered skin, also known as the brood pouch. There is no question that the male Emperor Penguin should win father of the year as they will do this for about 2 months without eating anything. Once the mother returns with a belly full of food for her young the male will then take off for his own hunting trip. I can imagine it would be a nice break after spending two months babysitting an egg. The moral of this Wild Fact is to be grateful that we are humans and don’t have endure the harsh life that the Emperor Penguin has been forced to deal with.
Emperor Penguin Fast Fact – The Emperor Penguin is able to dive up to 565 m (1850 feet) which makes them the deepest diving bird. As well, they are able to stay under water for about 20 minutes.
Have a great weekend everyone!