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Kidadl Team

AUGUST 06, 2021

15 Amaze-wing Facts About The Emperor Penguin For Kids

Emperor penguin facts about how they huddle together as a defense against the cold are interesting

Penguins are one of the most popular birds among both adults and kids. They are fascinating creatures that have been an inspiration to many movies, books, brands, and cartoons. The emperor penguin (Aptenodytes forsteri) is the world's biggest penguin. They are found only in Antarctica.

Emperor penguins are beautiful large, flightless birds adapted to live in the extremely hostile conditions of Antarctic ice shelves. The wings of emperor penguins are modified into flippers and this makes them excellent swimmers and divers. Emperor penguins look very similar to king penguins but are larger in size.

Emperor penguins are a diurnal species. They feed mainly on fish and krill. Emperor penguins are also a social species and they form large breeding colonies. Emperor penguins are at risk of becoming an endangered species of penguins and they face various threats to their existence. In this article, you will read lots of interesting and fun facts about emperor penguins.

For more relatable content, check out these Magellanic penguin facts and African penguin facts for kids.

Emperor Penguin Interesting Facts

What type of animal is an emperor penguin?

The emperor penguin (Aptenodytes forsteri) is a large flightless bird that belongs to the family Spheniscidae. They are one of two species of penguins that come under the genus Aptenodytes. They are known as 'great penguins'.

What class of animal does an emperor penguin belong to?

Emperor penguins belong to the class Aves (birds) and the order Sphenisciformes. The king penguin (Aptenodytes patagonicus) is the only other existing species of penguin that belongs to the same genus. A fossil find helped to identify the Ridgen's penguin (Aptenodytes ridgeni), an extinct species belonging to the Aptenodytes genus.

How many emperor penguins are there in the world?

The exact number of emperor penguins is unknown. According to some satellite surveys, an estimate of 54 colonies containing approximately 256,500 breeding pairs was counted for these Antarctic birds. The numbers of juveniles, sub-adults, and non-breeders are unknown. Although they are listed as Near Threatened, their population trend is shown to be stable.

Where does an emperor penguin live?

Emperor penguins spend their entire lives on the Antarctic ice coast and on ice shelves in the South Pole (66°-77° latitude). Some emperor penguins take refuge in the higher latitude Weddell Sea and the Ross Sea. They are marine, oceanic birds. The main colonies are found on the Dion Islands, the Antarctic peninsula, Taylor Glacier-Victoria Land, and Amundsen Bay. Some vagrants were also found at Heard Island, South Georgia, New Zealand, Argentina, and Chile, far from their natural habitat.

What is an emperor penguin's habitat?

Emperor penguins inhabit stable ice shelves near the coast and few kilometers offshore. They live on ice cliffs, icebergs, and fast ice. They choose places that provide protection from the wind. Emperor penguins live in the north of the Antarctic Circle. Major breeding colonies of emperor penguins are found at Coulman Island in Victoria Land, Cape Washington, Cape Colbeck, Halley Bay, and Dibble Glacier. These colonies occasionally break into suburbs, and some even disappear. The Cape Crozier colony in the Ross Sea almost disappeared into extinction due to shifts of the ice shelf.

Who do emperor penguins live with?

Emperor penguins, like most penguins, are social birds. They nest, forage and dive in groups and most of their activities are well-coordinated. Emperor penguins form large breeding colonies consisting of up to several thousand penguins. Within the colonies, there will be families of breeding pairs and their offspring.

How long does an emperor penguin live?

An emperor penguin has an average lifespan of 20 years in the wild. Some emperor penguins can also live up to 50 years.

How do they reproduce?

Emperor penguins mature at the age of three and start breeding at the age of four to six. Emperor penguins are the only species in the world that starts breeding during the Antarctic winter (March-April) at a low temperature of −40 F (-40 C). Emperor penguins do not mate for life, but they only take a single mate for each breeding season. Mature penguins trek inland to the nesting areas and form large breeding colonies. They start their trek when the Antarctic day lengths are increased, indicating the onset of their breeding season.

Emperor penguins display elaborate courtship behavior. The mates are carefully selected based on this display. The male emperor penguin places its head on its chest, inhales, and gives a two-second-long courtship call. Then they move around the colony and repeat the call until they find a mate. The male and female stand face to face and mirror each other's posture for some time. After selection, the female follows the male, and the couple waddle around the colony together. Before mating, they bow deeply at each other.

Female penguins lay one single egg each breeding season. They lay an egg in May or early June. The egg is thick-shelled, pear-shaped, and greenish-white in color. The adult male penguin takes care of the egg as soon as it is laid, while the mother goes back to the sea to forage for two months. Unfortunately, if the egg breaks mid-transfer, their relationship ends, and they both return to the sea ready to join the colony the next year. Male penguins incubate the egg with a featherless patch called a brood pouch, throughout the harsh Antarctic winter for 70-75 days until it hatches.

The newly hatched chicks have very thin feathers and are dependent on the adults for food and warmth. Male emperor penguins feed their chicks with a curd-like gland secretion known as crop milk for five to seven days and then the mother penguin returns with food from the sea to feed their chicks. The young chicks spend their guard phase balancing on their parents' feet. Chicks form a crèche 45 days after hatching. They huddle together for warmth and protection. In early November, the chicks start molting to become juveniles.

What is their conservation status?

The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2020, classifies the conservation status of emperor penguins as a Near Threatened species. Their population is declining due to various threats like human impacts and intrusion, habitat loss, fragmentation due to extreme weather, and climate change due to global warming.

Emperor Penguin Fun Facts

What do emperor penguins look like?

Emperor penguins have long streamlined bodies with wings that are modified into flippers. They have long black beaks with a thin streak of orange on their lower beak. Their body is predominantly black and white. The back, head, chin, throat, and the dorsal side of their wings are black. The undersides are completely white and they have patches of orange and yellow near their ear area and shoulders. The yellow fades and merges with white near the top of their chest. They also have small patches on their head and breasts.

Newly hatched emperor penguin chicks look very different from mature penguins. They have pale gray skin with very few feathers. After a few weeks, they start growing gray feathers with a black crown area, white cheeks, and a white chin. After a few months, they start molting their feathers and grow juvenile grayish-blue feathers. As they grow older, they develop black and white feathers.

Newly hatched chicks look different from adult emperor penguins.

How cute are they?

Emperor penguins are extremely cute birds. Their waddle is the most adorable sight. Emperor penguin chicks are very fluffy looking too and it is a spectacle to see their extremely huge colonies during the breeding season.

How do they communicate?

Emperor penguins are a very vocal species of penguins. They depend on their vocal calls for finding their mate, nest, and chick. They do not have a particular spot for their nest, so the vocal calls help them identify their mate when they return from the sea after foraging. The courtship behavior of male emperor penguins also includes a high pitch call to attract a female. They have a wide range of calls and these differ from individual to individual. Chicks whistle for food and contact.

How big is an emperor penguin?

The average emperor penguin height ranges between 43-47 in (109.2-119.4 cm). They are the tallest penguins on the planet. They grow three times the size of a little blue penguin (the smallest penguin).

How fast can an emperor penguin fly?

An emperor penguin cannot fly even though it has wings. The wingspan of an emperor penguin is 29.9-35 in (76-89 cm).

How much does an emperor penguin weigh?

The weight of adult emperor penguins varies widely during the breeding season. They gain and lose many pounds. A total of 30 % of a penguin's weight is body fat and the average weight of an adult emperor penguin is 50-100 lb (22.7-45.4 kg). They are almost 10 times heavier than the Galapagos penguin.

What are their male and female names of the species?

A male emperor penguin is a 'cock' and a female is a 'hen'.

What would you call a baby emperor penguin?

A baby emperor penguin is called a 'chick' or 'hatchling'.

What do they eat?

Emperor penguins are carnivorous and prey on fish, krill, and occasionally on squids. They also feed on crustaceans and cephalopods. They have a rough, spiky tongue that helps them catch their prey. Their main diet is composed of the Antarctic silverfish. They feed in open waters and under the sea ice.

Are they dangerous?

Emperor penguins are not very dangerous, but if humans intrude on their nests, they will nip and bite.

Would they make a good pet?

It is illegal to keep wild exotic bird species like emperor penguins as a pet. Emperor penguins are adapted to the freezing conditions of the Antarctic, so they will not be able to survive in captivity. They need ice patches to live and breed on and they live best with their large colonies. Very few zoos have captive emperor penguins on display for this reason.

Did you know...

Emperor penguin colonies are so huge that they can be counted from space using satellite technology!

Emperor penguins adapt to the freezing cold with two layers of feathers, a good reserve of body fat, and by huddling together. Their small long beaks and thin flippers prevent heat loss.

Non-mating females or females that have lost their chick, try to steal or adopt abandoned chicks of this species of penguin.

The Genus name for the emperor penguin is Aptenodytes, which means 'without-wings-diver'.

What is the emperor penguin known for?

The emperor penguin is known for its large emperor penguin size. They are the world's tallest and heaviest penguin species.

How to draw an emperor penguin?

After reading all of these emperor penguin facts for kids, you may want to try drawing an emperor penguin. Here's how:

Draw an inverted U for the head. Then draw a long curved line from one end of the U and draw a side curve from the other end of U that joins at the bottom. Next, draw the belly and flippers, then add an eye and a beak. Finally, draw two feet. Now color your emperor penguin black, white, orange, and yellow before adding an orange streak to the black beak.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other birds from our royal penguin facts and yellow-eyed penguin facts pages.

You can even occupy yourself at home by coloring in one of our free printable Emperor Penguin coloring pages.

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