Indigenous and unique to the Antarctic continent and surrounding islands and coasts, the emperor penguin, or Aptenodytes Forsteri, are truly beautiful (though flightless) birds, and are the tallest and heaviest of all penguin species. On average, they measure 115 cm (about three feet) in height, which is the height of the average six-year-old human.
Emperor penguins are also the only bird to inhabit the open ice of Antarctica during the winter, trekking 30 to 75 miles or (50 to 120 kilometers) over the ice to breeding colonies. They spend their entire lives in Antarctica, where the temperatures can drop to as low as -60°C. These brilliant birds have special adaptations to survive in such low temperatures, with their large stores of insulating body fat and several layers of scale-like feathers that protect them from icy winds; they also huddle close together in large groups to keep themselves and each other warm.
The male and female are similar in plumage and size, with black dorsal sides and head, a white belly, pale yellow breast, and bright yellow ear patches. While the female lays a single egg each season, both mother and father take turns incubating the egg while the other returns to the sea to feed. The female carefully passes the egg to the male before journeying up to 50 miles (80 km) to the open ocean where she can feed. During this time, the males are in charge of keeping the egg safe and warm in the breeding ground. They do this by balancing the egg on their feet and covering it with feathered skin called a ‘brood pouch.’ It takes about two months for the eggs to hatch.