Emperor Penguin

From Academic Kids

Emperor Penguin
Missing image
Emperor Penguins

Scientific classification
Species:A. forsteri
Binomial name
Aptenodytes forsteri
Gray, 1844

The Emperor Penguin (Aptenodytes forsteri) is the largest of all penguins. Emperor Penguins eat crustaceans (such as krills), squid, and small fish. They live for around 20 years— some records indicate a maximum of 40. (Note that the King Penguin is a different species, and the Royal Penguin is a subspecies of the Rockhopper Penguin.)



In order to find food, these penguins need to dive 150 to 250 metres into the Southern Ocean. The deepest diving on record is 565 metres. The longest they can hold their breath when underwater is 20 minutes. Their swimming speed is 6 to 8 km per hour.

In response to the cold, emperor penguins will stand in a compact huddle, whether in a group of ten or many hundreds of birds, each one leaning forward on a neighbor. Those on the outside tend to face inward and push slowly forward. This produces a slow churning action, giving each bird a turn on the inside.

Physical characteristics

Adults average about 1.1 metres (4 ft) and weigh 30 kilograms (75 lb) or more

Like the King Penguin counterpart, a male Emperor Penguin has an abdominal fold, the "brood pouch", between its legs and lower abdomen.

The head and wings are black, the abdomen white, black bluish grey, bill purplish pink. On the sides of the neck, there are two golden circular stripes.

Baby Emperor penguins are covered with a thick layer of light gray down, not shiny like the plumage of the adults but opaque and wooly. This covering ensures that they absorb as much heat as possible, vital at this early stage when they are not capable of maintaining their body temperature.

A distinguishing character between male and female is their call.

Reproduction and breeding

Emperor Penguins, Ross Sea, Antarctica
Emperor Penguins, Ross Sea, Antarctica

Emperor penguins travel about 90 km inland to reach the breeding site. March or April, the penguins start courtship, when the temperature can be as low as -40 degrees Celsius.In May or June, female penguin lays one 450-gram egg and abandons it immediately to spend the winter at sea. The male will incubate the egg in its brood pouch for about 65 days consecutively without food by surviving on his fat reserves and spending the majority of the time sleeping to conserve energy. To survive the cold and wind (up to 200 km per hour), the males huddle together, taking turns in the middle of the huddle. If the chick hatches before the mother's return, the father will sit the chick on his feet and cover with it with his pouch, feeding it a white milky substance produced by a gland in his esophagus. After about two months, the female returns with food in her stomach, which is regurgitated to feed the chicks and she takes over the protection process with her brood pouch for a few weeks while the male takes his turn fishing. After these few weeks, the male returns and both parents tend to the chick by keeping it off the ice and feeding it food from their stomachs. About two months after hatching, the chicks huddle in a cr�che for warmth and protection, still fed by their parents.


Emperor penguins tend to be monogamous unless their mate dies.

In early and mid-20th century, the penguins were hunted for their fat.

Predators include Leopard Seal, Killer Whale, and sharks.

External links

  • Emperor Penguin. Great Book of Birds. Philadelphia: Courage Books, 1997.

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