Monday, 8 April 2013

The Emperor Penguin

Little one, today we're going to talk about the Emperor Penguin. Let's begin...

  1. Emperor penguins are the largest penguins, standing about 4 feet (1.2 meters) tall.
  2. These flightless animals live on the Antarctic ice and in the frigid surrounding waters.
  3. Penguins employ physiological adaptations and cooperative behaviors in order to deal with an incredibly harsh environment, where wind chills can reach -76°F (-60°C).
  4. They huddle together to escape wind and conserve warmth.Individuals take turns moving to the group's protected and relatively toasty interior.Once a penguin has warmed a bit it will move to the perimeter of the group so that others can enjoy protection from the icy elements. 
  5. Emperor penguins spend the long winter on the open ice—and even breed during this harsh season.They have small bills and flippers, which helps to conserve heat, and special nasal chambers that minimize the heat normally emitted through exhalation.
    Because their arteries and veins are situated close together, emperor penguins have the ability to recycle their own body heat.
    With this system, blood is cooled down on the way to the penguins’ extremities and warmed up on the way back to the heart.
  6. Females lay a single egg and then promptly leave it behind.They undertake an extended hunting trip that lasts some two months!Depending on the extent of the ice pack, females may need to travel some 50 miles (80 kilometers) just to reach the open ocean, where they will feed on fish, squid, and krill. What's a krill?

  1. At sea, emperor penguins can dive to 1,850 feet (565 meters)—deeper than any other bird—and stay under for more than 20 minutes.
  2. Male emperors keep the newly laid eggs warm, but they do not sit on them, as many other birds do.Males stand and protect their eggs from the elements by balancing them on their feet and covering them with feathered skin known as a brood pouch.During this two-month bout of babysitting the males eat nothing and are at the mercy of the Antarctic elements.
  3. When female penguins return to the breeding site, they bring a belly full of food that they regurgitate for the newly hatched chicks.Meanwhile, their duty done, male emperors take to the sea in search of food for themselves.
  4. Mothers care for their young chicks and protect them with the warmth of their own brood pouches.
  5. Outside of this warm cocoon, a chick could die in just a few minutes.
  6. In December, Antarctic summer, the pack ice begins to break up and open water appears near the breeding site, just as young emperor penguins are ready to swim and fish on their own.
  7. Emperor penguins are also specially adapted to traveling in this extreme habitat.
    On the ice masses, they use strong claws on their feet to help grip the surface as they shuffle along. They also slide on their sleek bellies while pushing with their feet.

    Life Cycle of the Emperor Penguin

    Every winter (which begins in March in Antarctica), emperor penguins traverse up 80 km (50 mi.) across the ice to reach stable breeding grounds.
    Males arrive shortly before females, ready to attract a mate with displays and courtship calls.
    Emperor penguins are monogamous during each breeding season, choosing only one mate.
    Most will find a new mate the next year, but some pairs choose to reform a bond again.
    Once the egg is hatched, in May or June, the female will pass the egg to the male to incubate.
    She will make the long voyage back to the sea to feed on krill, squid, and fish.

    As there are no nesting supplies available on the ice mass, emperor penguins must create a safe, warm environment for the eggs using their own bodies.
    Careful to keep the egg sheltered, the male will balance the egg on his feet and cover it with a warm layer of feathered skin called a brood pouch.

    In the next couple months, the male emperor penguins must cope with the worst weather conditions on earth, all the while eating nothing.
    To withstand the harsh winds and blizzards, the penguins huddle together in groups. They take turns moving towards the inside of the pack, where it is warmer, thereby sustaining the entire group.

    Once the females arrive back at the colony, they regurgitate food for the hatchings to eat.
    At this time, the males can finally return to sea to fish, and the females will continue care for the chicks. After a few months, the juveniles leave the shelter of their mothers’ brood pouches and stay in chick groups called crèches.
    This allows the females to go fish.

    In December, the weather warms in Antarctica, breaking up the outer ice and bringing the sea closer to the nesting sites.
    When the young penguins reach the water, they are nearly done with their moult, and they’re ready to swim and fish on their own.
    Adult penguins begin their yearly moult once separated from their offspring.
    They store up body fat beforehand because it takes a lot of energy to replace all their feathers, and they are unable to fish because they lack waterproof protection.
    By January, the new plumage has grown in, and the hungry penguins take to the waters in groups to forage for the summer.

    Although emperor penguins are effective hunters, they are also prey to a few Antarctic animals as well. Only a third of the juvenile penguins will make it to their first birthday, falling prey to seabirds like giant petrels or skuas. In the water, both juveniles and adults are eaten by leopard seals and killer whales.

    Emperor penguins never developed a fear of humans due to Antarctic isolation.

    What You Can Do to Help 
    If you would like to help emperor penguins, you can reduce carbon emissions which lead to global warming. Some measures include walking, biking or taking public transportation instead of driving, using energy saver appliances and light bulbs, buying locally grown produce, reducing your consumption of manufactured goods and packaging, recycling, and more. 

    Click on this link. It's interesting. Towards the end, it shows how penguins leap out of sea to the edge of the ice.

    A Chick

    Chick with Mother

    I hope you've enjoyed this read on the Emperor Penguin little one. Let Aunty C take a rest now. Till next time...

    Dreamy C

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