Life cycle of Penguins

Penguins are social birds and live in colonies of up to 150,000

Penguins are social birds and live in communities of up to 150,000. Their bodies are covered by a thick layer of fat to protect them from the cold water. They have oiled feathers to keep water away from their bodies. A gland near their neck produces oil, which they spread throughout their body.

Penguins are warm-blooded animals and need to regulate their body temperature. While on ice, they send very little blood to feet. If they’re hot, they open their fins and spread their front feathers. In very cold windy condition, they tend to turn their backs to the wind.

They eat sea creatures and spend about half of their life in the water and half on the land. Since they live in the ocean, they drink salt water and eliminate excess salt through glands next to their beak.

Penguins are very good swimmers but they can’t fly. Most penguins dive to 100 meters, although some can dive even deeper. When swimming, they look like ducks and use their feet to paddle.

Throughout the year, they go through a regular cycle:

Octobercome ashore to lay eggs. They return to the same place every year.

Novemberlay eggs. They lay one egg, and then 2 or 3 days later lay another. Depending on the individual species, they may discard smaller of the eggs.

Decembereggs hatch. The incubation period for the eggs is 30 – 35 days. Both male and female penguins nurture the eggs during this period. At birth the chicks have plumules, which are later replaced by feathers. The chicks can not enter the water with plumules.

Januarychicks start to leave nests.

Februarychicks start to shed feathers

Marchadults shed feathers. Penguins change their feathers once per year; the process takes 2 – 4 weeks. During this time, they cannot enter the water so are their most vulnerable. They cannot feed while molting, so will live off fat they accumulated beforehand.

Aprilleave for life in sea. Once their new feathers have come in, penguins eat as much as they can to rebuild their fat stores, then head into the water for their migration north.

Maylast penguins start pelagic period (living at sea)

June, July, Augustmigration. Depending on the species, they may go as far north as Rio de Janeiro.

Septemberbuild nests. By the end of the month, all penguins will be rookeries ready to lay their eggs. They build their nests very close together for safety.

In the Patagonia region, there are six species of penguins – King, Gentoo, Megallanic, Rockhopper, Chinstrap, and Macaroni. The most well known types of penguins are:

King Penguin
The King Penguin is around 90 cms tall and weighs about 14 – 16 kgs. Male King Penguins are larger than the females. These types of penguins have a blue/grey color on their outer side. The belly area is white in color and turns black towards around the head. King Penguins usually found in the sub-Antarctic islands, which are in the northern areas of the Antarctic.

Emperor Penguins
These penguins are the largest and also the heaviest penguins. An adult Emperor Penguin can weigh 35 kgs. The belly area is white and turns pale yellow towards the upper area. Black feathers cover their head and back. They have a speed of around 9 kph in the water. They can live in colder areas than other penguins. They are known to make trips to mate every year.

Adelie Penguins
Adelie penguins are around 30-50 cms in length and weigh around 4.5 kg. The Adelie penguins are amongst the smallest of the Antarctic penguins. They have long feathers that cover a major portion their bill. Apart from eating fish, these penguins are known to eat snow. They are also easily distinguished due to a white ring around the eye. They build their nests by piling stones together. The males look after the eggs. They are very good swimmers and can jump out straight from the water and onto land. These penguins are found all along the Antarctic coast and on the neighboring islands.

Rockhopper Penguins
Rockhopper penguins are small and can reach 55 cms. They weigh around 3.35 kgs. This type of penguin has been given its name because of their behavior to hop and jump over rocks. Rockhopper Penguins have red beaks and red colored eyes and yellow for their eyebrows. Their nests are found on rocky hills. The Rockhopper Penguins use pebbles and twigs to build their nest. They feed on a diet of fish, krill and squid. Rockhopper Penguins are found on almost all of the islands in the Antarctic.

Little Penguins
These are the smallest of all penguins. They grow to 30 to 33 cm tall. They are also known as Fairy penguins. They have a bluish grey color and have white bellies. Little Penguins are known to build their nests under thick plants or also in holes that are found in rocks. They are found on the coastlines of New Zealand and southern Australia.

Penguins’ bodies are covered by a thick layer of fat to protect them from the cold water

They build their nests very close together for safety

 

Penguins are warm-blooded animals and need to regulate their body temperature

Since they live in the ocean, penguins drink salt water and eliminate excess salt through glands next to their beak

 

Penguins are very good swimmers but they can’t fly

Penguins change their feathers once per year; the process takes 2 – 4 weeks

 

by Davy and Nancy

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

About Nancy Sathre-Vogel

After 21 years as a classroom teacher, Nancy Sathre-Vogel finally woke up and realized that life was too short to spend it all with other people's kids. She and her husband quit their jobs and, together with their twin sons, climbed aboard bicycles to see the world. They enjoyed four years cycling as a family - three of them riding from Alaska to Argentina and one exploring the USA and Mexico. Now they are back in Idaho, putting down roots, enjoying life at home, and living a different type of adventure. It's a fairly sure bet that you'll find her either writing on her computer or creating fantastical pieces with the beads she's collected all over the world.

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