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Penguin Species Series #9 - The Emperor Penguin

Emperor Penguin, Aptenodytes forsteri

Coolest Fact: Emperor penguins are the only creature to breed in the Antarctic winter

Where It’s Found: Around the coast of Antarctica

Crucial Facts:

· IUCN Status: Near threatened—recently upgraded due to significant population declines.

· Population: about 46 colonies, estimated at 595,000 individuals. Expected to decline in next three generations (61 years) by 27%.

· Mating: serial monogamy.

· Nesting: no nests. Vast majority breed on open sea ice. Male exclusively incubates a single egg in its brood patch.

· Annual Cycle: return to colonies in March, breed and hatch in Antarctic winter.

· Life span: 20 years.

· Food: Krill, fish, squid.

· Threats: Because they breed on sea ice, they are especially vulnerable to global warming.

Our First Sighting: January 15, 2010

Antarctic Sound, Antarctic Peninsula

Our Story:

Emperor penguins are the largest penguin species and the iconic penguin. A visit to a colony of emperor penguins is like no other wildlife experience we have had. We visited an emperor colony at Snow Hill Island. The penguins are unique in breeding on sea ice in an Antarctic winter, the most ferocious winter on the planet. The chicks steal the show. They are off-the-charts cute. Their gray-plush bodies and huge curious eyes make the chicks the cutest baby birds I know. The chicks nestle into the golden pillowed chest of the adults and the tenderness between adult and chick, in such a hostile environment, is deeply moving. The feeling they evoke is unique—a combination of awe and affection. Susan and I call this feeling “the penguin glow.”

This new penguin series includes stories, information, and photos not yet published. Read about our quest to see all 18 of the world’s penguin species in my book “Every Penguin in the World.”

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