The Emperor is the largest penguin species standing 1.3 m tall and weighing an average of 45 kg. This beautiful species sports the tuxedo style plumage of many penguin species with dark grey to blue-tinged feathers on the dorsal side and a black tail, wings, head, chin, and throat. The chest and belly are pale yellow to white. A orange-yellow band appears near the ears on each side of the head that fades towards the neck.
Unlike most penguins, which feed on surface krill, Emperor penguins live on fish, squid, and crustaceans caught on long, fast dives. They can reach depths of more than 700 feet and stay under the water for about 18 minutes. Emperor penguins establish loose breeding colonies on the pack ice surrounding the Antarctic continent. In may the female will hatch an egg and then hold it in it’s pouch for about 63 days then it will pass the egg on to her mate and then will leave the breeding ground to hunt for food.
The emperor penguins are most likely to be seen from latitudes of 66 degrees up to 87 degrees Celsius. They are a very social species that forage and nest in groups. There are an estimated 40 colonies throughout Antarctica found on ice patches near the sea.
Sexually mature adults travel throughout the year between the breeding colonies and the sea where they forage. Between January and March each year, all the emperor penguins are found travelling in packs. They are strong, fast swimmers reaching speeds up to 3.4 meters per second and diving up to 450 m for up to 22 minutes at a time. They move more slowly on land. At times they "toboggan" by propelling themselves on their bellies across the ice by pushing with their feet and wings. At the onset of the winter months, between March and April, adults travel in groups making the long, slow journey from the pack ice near the sea to breeding colonies up to 120 km away.
They live and breed at the beginning of winter. The total population is estimated to be about 200,000 breeding pairs. Emperor penguins can mate when they are 4 years old and live up to 20 years of age. The shape of their body helps them to survive. They have short wings that help them to dive up to 900 feet to catch larger fish. They can swim km an hour which lets them escape their main enemy, the leopard seal. They have a thick layer of blubber to keep themselves warm from the harsh weathers of Antarctica.
Incubation lasts days during which time the male fasts and the female returns to the sea to forage. It is this period when males and their eggs can be found fighting the harsh weather and incubating in grounds like if they are stuck with each other. Because of their icy habitat, this species does not build a nest. When the chicks hatch they are covered in down and have a black head with two white spots near the eyes.
If they hatch before the female returns to feed them, the males will throw up a substance occasionally referred to as "penguin milk." When the female returns to the breeding site, the male then returns to the sea to forage for several weeks. They lose up to half of their total body weight during the incubation period. Chicks are fed regurgitated fish by the females while the male is gone, then by both parents until they are ready to leave the breeding site at about 4 months.
Like all penguins, Emperor Penguins live in the Southern Hemisphere. Emperor penguins live in extremely cold weather and cold places, in this case, the coasts of Antarctica. To survive the weathers of the southernmost continent Emperor penguins have waterproof feathers with a layer of down feathers underneath. To complete the heavy winter coat is a thick layer of blubber. Penguins are one of the few birds that has a layer of blubber. Other adaptations is their wing shape and their bones. Unlike flying birds or birds on land, their bone is more solid and denser that allows the penguins to avoid buoyancy while swimming through the water.
Over hundreds of years the wings of penguins have turned into a shape that look more like flippers. So even though they are useless for flying in the air, the well muscled "flippers" help them "fly" through the water. Most penguins also learned how to leap out of the water like dolphins and whales to breath but the Emperor penguin is not one of them. One more adaptation is that emperor penguins have a special gland that pumps up more salt in their bodies, so they can drink ocean water for hydration.
Emperor penguin’s little chicks are mostly in danger when they are away from their parents… The penguins worst nightmare are the killer whales and leopard seals.