Sunday, December 28, 2008

Penguin Chicks at Snow Hill Rookery

On their own two feet at last: penguin chicks make tracks

Like a scene straight out of a Disney film, these five-month-old Emperor penguin chicks set out without their parents on the suitably named Snow Hill Island in Antarctica.

Emperor penguins breed during the dark winter months and gather at rookeries up to 60 miles inland to huddle together for warmth in temperatures that can fall to minus 60C (-76F). Within the huddle, they can raise the temperature by 20C through their collective body warmth.

The penguins (Aptenodytes forsteri) assemble at the breeding colonies early in winter, shortly after the sea ice has formed, and adults are able to identify their young from the chicks’ distinctive call. This way they can ensure that they only feed their own chicks among the thousands of others.

They do not drink water but they can eat snow and stoop to feed their chicks, which stand on their mother’s feet at feeding time. After the winter breeding season, which starts in March, the penguins stay huddled inland and the chicks are born between mid-July and August, having to face 100mph winds and bitter temperatures. They live mostly on fish and crustaceans, found either in open water or in tidal cracks in pack ice.

Story courtesy of The Times Online @

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