The Emperor Penguin is the tallest and heaviest of all living penguin species and is endemic to Antarctica. The dorsal side and head are black and sharply delineated from the white belly, pale-yellow breast and bright-yellow ear patches. Like all penguins it is flightless, with a streamlined body, and wings stiffened and flattened into flippers for a marine habitat.
Name: Emperor Penguin
Scientific Name: Aptenodytes forsteri
Group Name: Colony
Life Span: 15 to 20 years
Size: 45 in
Weight: Up to 88 lbs
Quick Facts About the Emperor Penguin For Kids
- Adults have a white stomach and a black head, back, tail and wings. They also have yellowy-gold markings on the side of their head and neck.
- Emperor penguins are the largest of all the different kinds of penguin.
- Emperor penguins spend their entire lives in Antarctica.
- The Emperor Penguin’s diet consists mainly of fish, crustaceans and cephalopods, although its composition varies from population to population.
- To survive in such low temperatures, penguins have large stores of insulating body fat and several layers of scale-like feathers that protect them from icy winds.
- Around April every year emperor penguins meet to breed on the thick Antarctic ice.
- The males are in charge of keeping the egg safe and warm in the breeding ground. They do this by balancing the egg on their feet and covering it with feathered skin, called a ‘brood pouch’.
- The females return in July, bringing with them food in their bellies which they regurgitate (or throw up) for the chicks to eat.
- As the youngsters grow, the parents leave them in groups, called ‘crèches‘, whilst they head to the ocean to fish.
- Without the warmth of the parents’ brood pouches, emperor penguin chicks would die in just a few minutes in the cold of Antarctica.
- Penguins can reach depths of over 500m and stay underwater for up to 22 minutes!
- Emperor penguins are considered near threatened and their populations are expected to decline rapidly in years to come.
- The Emperor Penguin is perhaps best known for the sequence of journeys adults make each year in order to mate and to feed their offspring.
- The only penguin species that breeds during the Antarctic winter, it treks 31–75 mi over the ice to breeding colonies which may include thousands of individuals.
- Studies of penguin behaviour and genetics have proposed that the genus Aptenodytes is basal; in other words, that it split off from a branch which led to all other living penguin species.
- It is the fifth heaviest living bird species, after only the larger varieties of ratite.
- Like all penguin species, the Emperor has a streamlined body to minimise drag while swimming, and wings that have become stiff, flat flippers.
- Chicks weigh around 315 g (11 oz) after hatching, and fledge when they reach about 50% of adult weight.
- Water temperature is a frigid −1.8 °C (28.8 °F), which is much lower than the Emperor Penguin’s average body temperature of 39 °C (102 °F).
- While diving, the Emperor Penguin’s oxygen use is markedly reduced, as its heart rate is reduced to as low as 15-20 beats per minute and non-essential organs are shut down, thus facilitating longer dives.
- By applying mathematical models to predict how the loss of sea ice from climate warming would affect a big colony of Emperor Penguins at Terre Adélie, Antarctica, they forecast a decline of 87% in the colony’s population by the end of the century, from the current 3,000 breeding pairs in the colony to 400 breeding pairs.