|Photo by Martha de Jong-Lantink (Fotopedia)|
emperor penguin (en); pinguim-imperador (pt); manchot empereur (fr); pingüino emperador (es); kaiserpinguin (de)
This species is only found in Antarctica and in the surrounding polar waters.
These large penguins are 110-130 cm long and weigh 22-45 kg.
The emperor penguin breeds on stable pack ice near coastal areas and up to 18 km offshore, usually in areas where ice cliffs or icebergs shelter them from the wind. They forage on the cold water of the Antarctic Ocean, ranging as far north as 65º S.
They feed on small pelagic fishes, crustaceans and cephalopods, namely Antarctic krill Euphausia superba, amphipods, glacial squid Psychroteuthis glacialis, hooked squid Kondakovia longimana, Antarctic neosquid Alluroteuthis antarcticus and fishes such as Antarctic silverfish Pleuragramma antarcticum, Trematomus sp., Pagothenia sp. Antarctic jonasfish Notolepsis coatsi, Electrona antarctica and various Channichthyidae.
Emperor penguins are monogamous, but pair bonds usually only last 1 year. They breed in March-January. The female lays a single white egg, which is immediately transferred to the male’s feet where it is kept warm under a pouch of feathery skin. The female then departs for the sea to feed, and doesn’t return until spring, whilst the male incubates the egg alone in the constant darkness of the Antarctic winter for 62-67 days. The female arrives soon after the chick hatches and starts feeding it, while the male goes out to sea. The chick is fed by both parents, which take turns, and joins a crèche of hundreads or thousands of chicks at about 45-50 days of age, but continue to be fed by the parents until fledging. They fledge 4-5 months after hatching and reach sexual maturity at 3 years of age.
IUCN status - NT (Near-Threatened)
This species has a relatively large breeding range and the global population is estimated at 475.000 individuals. The emperor penguin is expected to suffer a moderate decline in the near future as global warming reduces the availability of stable pack ice in the more northern breeding colonies. When Earth's tropospheric temperature reach 2º C above pre-industrial levels, all colonies north of 68ºS will possibly be lost and all colonies north of 70ºS will suffer negative impacts. Human disturbance may also be a problem in some areas due to the proximity of scientific bases and aircraft movements, but it is strictly regulated.