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Emperor Penguin
Similar Birds:
 King Penguin

Emperor Penguin Video

Emperor Penguins

Emperor Penguins
Photographer: M T Paley

Emperor Penguins

Emperor Penguin Range Map (Antarctica)
Emperor Penguin Range Map (Antarctica)

Emperor Penguins

Emperor Penguins
Photographer: M T Paley

Emperor Penguin Chick
Photographer: M T Paley
Latin Name Aptenodytes forsteri
Conservation Status Least Concern
Location Circumpolar around Antarctica
Colour Black & White
Height 1.1 m (3.5 ft)
Weight Up to 37 Kgs (82 lbs)
Life Expectancy Approx. 20 Yrs

Main Characteristics

Emperor Penguins are the largest species of Penguin. They measure up to 1.1 m (3.5 ft) in height and they weigh up to 37 kgs (82 lbs).

Their head and wings are black in colour, their back is blue-black and they are coloured white on their front. They have yellow patches on the side of their neck and their bill is purplish-pink.

The feathers of Emperor Penguins are thick, and provide insulation and a waterproof layer over their whole body, except their feet and undersides of their wings.

Male Emperor Penguins have an abdominal fold between their legs and lower abdomen that is known as their "brood pouch". This protects their egg and chick during the breeding season.

Emperor Penguins swim at speeds of 6 - 9 Km/hr (4 - 6 mph) but they can reach speeds of 19 km/hr (12 mph) in short bursts.

The call of each Emperor Penguin is distinct and males and females can be identified by their differing calls. On land they alternate between walking and "tobogganing" along on their stomachs, propelling themselves with their feet and wings.

To protect themselves against the cold, severe weather Emperor Penguins huddle together in what is known as the "turtle formation". The huddles can consist of 10 or hundreds of birds and each bird leans forward on a neighbour. Those on the outside shuffle slowly around the edge producing a churning action that gives each bird a turn in the middle.


Emperor Penguins are found circumpolar around Antarctica. They are social birds and they feed, travel and nest in groups. They are active during the day or night and from January to March they disperse into the ocean.


Emperor Penguins feed on small fish, squid and crustaceans. They mainly dive to around 50 m (164 ft) to forage for food and one of their feeding strategies is to blow bubbles into cracks in the ice to flush out any fish that may be hiding.


Emperor Penguins breed in winter and will travel approximately 90 km (56 miles) inland to their breeding site. In May or June the female will lay 1 egg that weighs approximately 450g (1 lb) then she leaves it with the male while she goes out to sea to feed and build up her nutritional reserves.

The male carries the egg on his feet and protects it with a pouch of feathery skin. He incubates it for approximately 65 days and during this time he will not feed, surviving on the fat reserves he has built up. All the males huddle together to keep warm while they wait for their egg to hatch and the female to return.

In spring the female returns and the chick emerges from its egg. If the chick hatches before the female has returned with food, the male will produce a milky substance from a gland in his digestive system to feed the chick. After the female has returned the males then leave to go out to sea to feed, later returning to help rear the chick.

When the chicks are approximately 2 months old they will join other young penguins in a creche, but they are still fed by their parents. After approximately 5 months the young birds and their parents will return to the sea to feed for the rest of the summer.

Emperor Penguins become sexually mature at around 5 years of age. Those that are not of breeding age remain at the edge of the sea during the winter months, while the breeding adults make the trek inland.


The main predators of Emperor Penguins are leopard seals, killer whales, sharks, skua and antarctic giant petrels.


There are no subspecies of the Emperor Penguin.

Interesting Facts

Emperor Penguins can dive up to 530 m (1,750 ft) for as long as 20 minutes - they hold the record for the deepest and longest dive from a bird.

Emperor Penguins are the 5th heaviest bird currently in existence.

Emperor Penguins are the only penguins to breed during the winter months and they endure very severe breeding conditions.

In the 2006 film Happy Feet, the main character was an Emperor Penguin called Mumble and he befriended a group of cuban-accented Adelie Penguins.

Emperor Penguins belong to the genus Aptenodytes, which also includes:
King Penguin

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