Emperor Penguin (Aptenodytes forsteri)


Class: Aves
Order: Sphenisciformes
Family:    Spheniscidae
Size:    Length: 36 to 47 inches (91 to 120 cm)
Weight: 67 to 100 pounds (30 to 45 kg)
Diet: Small fish, crustaceans and squid
Distribution: Antarctic
Young:  1 chick, once per year
Animal Predators:  Leopard seal, killer whale, shark
IUCN Status: No special status
Terms: Young: Chick
Lifespan: Average 15 to 20 years in the wild, up to 34 years old in captivity



·      Emperor penguins can swim at rates of up to nine miles (4 km) per hour.

·      Penguin comes from the Latin word pinguis, which means fat.

·      All penguins have body temperatures between 100 to 102º F/38 to 39º C.

·      In 1936, nine penguins were transported to the North Pole, but none of them survived.



Emperor penguins are the largest penguins in the world. Females and males are alike in appearance, but males are larger. They look as though they are wearing tuxedos—the head and wings are black, the back is a dark grey and at the base of the neck is a bright orange patch. The wings function as paddles when they swim—they are incapable of flying. They have a large body and short legs, causing them to waddle when they walk, but when they want to move faster, they lie on their stomachs and use their wings to push themselves over the ice and snow.



Emperors are the only penguins to breed exclusively along the coast of the Antarctic continent. They spend most of their time at sea, rarely approaching land except for during breeding season. 


Feeding Habits

Emperor penguins eat fish and crustaceans.



Before breeding season, the male fattens up as much as possible, because once the female lays an egg, he stays with it for two months until it hatches. He can never leave the egg during that time, so he fasts until the female comes back. Emperor penguins do not have nests, so they have more difficulty than other types of penguins to find their mates from the previous season. If a penguin’s mate does not show up, the penguin finds a new one. Females do the choosing and usually pick the largest and most brightly coloured males. Emperor penguins lay their eggs in winter. The female transfers her egg to the male, who keeps it on his feet, tucked inside a featherless patch of skin between his legs called a brood patch. Males often huddle together for warmth as they face the cold Antarctic chills and wait for the females to return. The  females usually come back just as the down-covered chick has emerged from the shell, nearly two months later. The male transfers the chick to his mate’s feet and then he immediately leaves to feed, having lost one-third of his body weight during his fast. The female feeds the chick regurgitated fish and after the male has had a good feeding, he returns. From that point on, the mother and father take turns feeding and taking care of the chick. Adult penguins who are unsuccessful at breeding may try to kill chicks who are left alone, so the father is usually the primary caregiver, because he is better equipped to defend the chick, being bigger and more aggressive than the female. Penguins have close bonds with their offspring, and if the chick dies, the parent may carry it around on his/her feet for many days, in the hope that it will revive. 



Emperor penguins are extremely social and gather in large groups. 



The emperor penguin population is relatively stable, at approximately 200,000 breeding pairs. All penguin species are protected by law from hunting and egg collecting.







Harrison, C. and Greensmith, A. (1993). Birds of the World. London: Dorling Kindersley Limited, p. 44.

Saunders, D. (1973). Sea Birds. New York: Grosset & Dunlap, p. 18-23.

Emperor Penguin Wildlife Fact File, IM Pub, US