Sunday, March 30, 2008

Cute lil' penguin chicks!

Incubation is considered the time it takes to warm the penguin's egg before it hatches. The female shifts the egg on to the top of the male's feet, while she goes to sea to find food. As I mentioned in earlier postings, the male is left there for several weeks without food, living off its body fat until the female returns. The incubation period can last anywhere from one month to 66 days. The temperature for incubation averages 30 degrees Celsius. Unfortunately, if the female doesn't return in time, the male may have already abandoned the nest to find food. In this case, the egg, of course, will not be able to hatch.

When penguin eggs do hatch, it is called "pipping". The chick will poke a hole and chip at the shell until the top comes off. Sometimes this actually takes up to three days to accomplish. All penguin chicks except King Penguins, who hatch naked, will hatch covered with fine down feathers. They may be white, gray, black, or brown, and are not waterproof. The chicks can not go into the water until they grow "juvenile plumage". They can then enter the water and be independent from their parents after about a year.

Emperor Penguins, in particular, have interesting markings on their face, which helps to see them easier in the snow. This is due to the fact that they do not have individual nesting sites.
Both the mother and father feed their chick
regurgitated food. Adults can identify their own chicks by their call. They feed only their chicks. Emperor male penguins can actually produce a substance from their esophagus to feed the chick if the female hasn't returned before the chick hatches. This form of survival can last up to two weeks. Parents keep their chicks warm by covering them with their brood patch. Some chicks will form "creches" with other chicks, providing protection from predators.

Both pictures were provided by
the SeaWorld/Busch Gardens Animal Information Database.

Busch Entertainment Corporation. (2008). Hatching and Care of Chicks. Sea World/Busch Gardens ANIMALS. Retrieved on March 29, 2008 from

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

I just want to acknowledge the popularity that penguins have been receiving over the recent years. There have been at least four well-known movies incorporating penguins in the last 3 years, starting with "Madagascar" and "March of the Penguins" in 2005. This was followed by "Happy Feet" in 2006, "Farce of the Penguins" in early 2007, and "Surf's Up" in June 2007. Children and grown-ups alike love penguins! I mean they are so cute and lovable, how could you not?

In "Madagascar", the prodigious penguins are quite the mischievous bunch. They help the other animals escape out of the zoo to explore the "world out there". After being captured and sent on a ship to Africa, the silly penguins wind up sabotaging the ship and they all must fend for themselves in the wild. The penguins may not be the lead roles, but the movie sure wouldn't be the same without their humor.

"March of the Penguins" is a documentary about our favorite friends, the penguins. This movie has to be good if Morgan Freeman, an admired and respected actor of his time, narrates this fabulous true story of the journey penguins must take to mate, find food, take care of their chicks, and survive. If this movie doesn't make you love penguins, you are hopeless.

Who could forget the adorable and fun-filled "Happy Feet" with dancing and singing penguins? It ripped my heart
out when Mumble had no "heartsong", but he brings everyone together with his intricate and entertaining tap dances. I am a tap dancer myself, hence why I couldn't get enough of the movie.

What's a documentary without a mockery? Of course they had to come out with "Farce of the Penguins" to make fun of the rituals and survival of the penguins.
But hey, you have to admit it was funny. That movie wouldn't have been worth watching without the help of Lewis Black, Dane Cook, James Belushi, Jason Alexander, Bob Saget, Carlos Mencia, and other famous comedians.

Last, but not least, "Surf's Up" is an original and entertaining cartoon about surfing penguins! Cody Maverick, a rockhopper
penguin, is determined to win the biggest competition in Pen Gu. This movie is perfect for kids and puts a new, yet unrealistic spin on the life of penguins. Although, I must admit, it would be pretty cool is penguins knew how to surf.

I just think it's great that they have been coming out with so many movies about penguins, not just for entertainment, but so that more people will realize how "in danger" these creatures are and we can't just sit around watching. The more knowledge people know about a topic, the more likely they will want to help. As I have said in some of my other postings, global warming is really affecting the lives of these penguins. The more people that help, the better.

(2008). Retrieved on March 25, 2008, from

Monday, March 24, 2008

Fun Facts

I thought it would be appropriate to look on the Sea World website to find out some interesting facts, and sure enough, I did! Some of these things are just so fascinating to think about because nature did certain things for a reason. For example...

1. All penguins have a black backside to camouflage into the dark depths of the ocean when looking down at them, and have a white front side to blend in with the shallower waters when looking up at them. This, of course, protects them from possible predators in the ocean.
-Now, everyone knows all penguins are colored that way, but have you ever thought about why?

2. Penguins have individual vocalizations to help them differentiate their mate and chicks. This is because it is highly unlikely that they can see them among the large group since they all look very similar. There are three types of calls. The contact call helps to recognize colony members, the display call is used for territorial and sexual recognitions, while the threat call warns others of danger and to defend their territory.
-I don't know about you, but that is so interesting!

3. Penguins are able to see both under and out of water. They have color vision and are receptive to the wavelengths of violet, blue, and green light.
-It is fascinating that some animals can see in color, while others can not.

4. When catching prey, penguins generally feed between 50-60 feet of the surface. They have strong jaws and small tongues to hold slippery prey. They swallow it whole while swimming. Emperor penguins have been known to search up to 1,454 km away to find food.
-I know I wouldn't be able to wait that long to eat!

The Sea World Website provided this picture below.

Busch Entertainment Corporation. (2008). Penguins. Sea World/Busch Gardens ANIMALS. Retrieved on March 24, 2008, from

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Some News Stories

Sadly, about two weeks ago, about sixty-five penguin chicks died in Table Mountain National Park in South Africa.

The temperature increased to 34.10 degrees Celsius, unbearable for any penguin chick to survive on its own. The park rangers should have been monitoring them more carefully. The surviving chicks were taken to a shady area, where they were fed through a tube with a hydrating liquid. The chicks should always be removed on days when the temperature is even the slightest bit threatening. Many people, including myself, were very sad to hear the news.

Last December, there was an oil spill in Argentina, affecting 163 Magellanic Penguins and other birds. The spill covered twenty-four square kilometers in the Atlantic Ocean, threatening many other animals. The International Fund for Animal Welfare, also known as the IFAW, rehabilitated the birds back to health two months later. The IFAW works alongside other companies to provide the best possible help and protection to animals around the globe. On February 13, 2008, the healthy Magellanic Penguins were released back into the South Atlantic Waters. To learn how you, too, can be a part of the IFAW, log on to

On February 29, 2008, an African Penguin named Babe disappeared from a zoo in Stuttgart, Germany. They believe that she was actually abducted by a possible passerby. Zookeepers do not believe that she escaped since she is only about a foot tall, and the enclosed fence is over 4 and 1/2 feet tall. However, there is a stronger possibility that someone snatched her out of the enclosure and carried her small body out. Zookeepers and police warn that Babe could die easily without the proper care of the trained zookeepers.

Booth, Michael. (2008, February 13). Penguins Swim Free After Successful Rehabilitation. International Fund for Animal Welfare. Retrieved on March 21, 2008, from

Bamford, Helen. (2008, March 9). Park Rangers Lashed Over Penguin Chick Deaths. Cape Argus on IOL. Retrieved on March 21, 2008, from

McGroarty, Patrick. (2008, February 29). Stuttgart Zoo Loses a Bird, Gains a Polar Bear. Spiegel Online. Retrieved on March 21, 2008, from

Penguins Arrouse Debates About Monogamy!

In an essay by Marlene Zuk, she discusses the "real" meaning of sex between penguins and other animals. Most people believe that it is solely for procreation. It is interesting to note that penguins as a whole are a monogamous species in that two parents must raise a chick, whereas with peacocks, a single mother can raise her offspring by herself. However, for Emperor Penguins especially, environmental problems increase the chance of being forced to find another mate the following year.

Zuk talks about the two homosexual penguins Roy and Silo, two chinstrap penguins in Central Park Zoo. They were only interested in building nests, rather than paying attention to the females. This brought up many questions regarding how animals interact in terms of sex. The question being asked was not necessarily "whether homosexuality is natural...but in the insight it offers into what sex means. " For example, bonobos, relatives of the chimpanzees, use sex to diminish tense apprehensive situations, occurring between members of the same sex, adults and juveniles, and when it is actually unlikely that conception will happen.

It was really interesting reading this article, because although I was aware of the bonobos' sexual trends from my physical anthropology class, I never thought about it in terms of other animals. It is truly fascinating to learn about the different behaviors of penguins and other animals, especially when it is not the "norm".

Zuk, Marlene. (2006). Family Values in Black and White. Nature, 439 (7079). Retrieved on March 20, 2008, from EBSCOhost.

Mating Behaviors of King Penguins

I thought this picture was perfect for the discussion on breeding, since these King Penguins above are mating.
Researchers studied the mating behaviors of King Penguins, the second largest species of penguin, in South Georgia, near Antarctica, for four consecutive summers.

King Penguins have an average weight of twenty to forty pounds, and an average height of thirty inches. They prefer breeding on subantarctic islands, where there is no ice on the waters.

They incubate one egg for fifty-four days. Once the chick has hatched, it is fed twice a week by each parent. The parents look offshore for fish, and regurgitate it to their young. Even though other young penguin species go sea later in the season, King Penguin chick must huddle together to use each other for warmth and shelter.

The chicks must rely on their storage of fat, although the parents come back several times to feed them. King Penguins, unlike other penguin species molt before breeding. Molting is the shedding and replacement of feathers each year. Parents whose chick either did not hatch or did not make it through the difficult winter, will court, mate, and lay an egg in December.

On average, although King Penguins breed every year, they generally only raise one chick every other year. King Penguins rarely share the responsibility of raising their young with the same partner each year, unless they arrive on the island in time.

If a male of female was unhappy with their partner for reasons such as being inexperienced, they will search for a different mate the following year. Sometimes the old mate will fight with the new mate to prove who is healthier or smarter. Sometimes the penguins will reunite if the timing is right. Once the egg has hatched, the female goes to sea to replenish her fat storage for three weeks. She then relieves the male, who has been fasting this whole time. Penguins live on fat and a little on protein. Sometimes, if the female is at sea longer than expected, the male will actually abandon the egg to survive.

Olsson, et al. (1997). South Georgian Kings.
Natural History, 106 (1). Retrieved on March 20, 2008, from EBSCOhost.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

More News on Adelie Penguins

It's truly amazing how animals can adapt so quickly to any change in their environment. Much of it stems back to global warming. However, in this article that I found from the National Geographic site, the change here, is due to hunting whales and seals! Although the change is not terrible for the penguins, it sure is for the whales and seals.

Apparently, penguins' main source of food was fish up until the last 200 years. The increase in whale and seal hunting near Antarctica has caused there to be an abundance of krill, also known as shrimp-like crustaceans. Biologists Steve Emslie and William Patterson analyzed 220 penguin fossils over the past 38,000 years.

"The proportions of certain forms of carbon and nitrogen in the eggshells tell the researchers what type of food the penguins ate in the days before laying their eggs." From their findings, they were able to discern that the penguins relied heavily on fish. Fish are actually higher up on the food chain than krill. Krill, however, is clearly preferred by Adelie Penguins, and is a great energy source. Now, more recently, krill is back on a decline, while fish are in abundance. This is due to the warming temperatures, lessening the sea ice, which holds algae for the krill to feed on. Lucky for Adelies, they adapt easily to environmental changes, especially when fishers have been taking krill to use in fish farms as food. I found this amazingly beautiful picture of Antarctica and just had to include it in this post!

Roach, John. (2007). Penguins Changed Diet Due to Whaling, Study Suggests. National Geographic News. Retrieved on March 20, 2008, from

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

More on Global Warming

Bill Fraser is an ecologist from Montana studying Adelie Penguins. Over the past 30 years, the Adelie Penguins, living on the Antarctic Peninsula, have diminished by 70%! Fraser says that the temperature there has increased by six degrees Celsius over the last fifty years.

The ice at sea is supposed to cover the oceans for hundreds of miles, coating the ocean with an impermeable cover. Unfortunately, the cover isn't as strong as it used to be, therefore, more "water vapor can evaporate into the atmosphere." This comes back to the earth as either rain or snow. In addition, this increase of snow fall near the Antarctic is detrimental to the penguins' breeding seasons. Adelie Penguins had been hit the worst. Adelies can not breed properly until their nesting sites are snow free. If they try to nest on top of the snow, their eggs will be destroyed when their nests overflow. Fraser is worried that the Adelie species will be completely gone in the next ten years. This picture shown below is of the Adelie Penguins. Don't they look fake?

I am so disheartened to hear about these penguins diminishing so quickly. Unfortunately, penguins aren't the only animals that global warming is affecting.

Grossman, Daniel. (2005). Observing Those Who Observe. Nieman Reports, 59 (4). Retrieved on March 19, 2008, from Academic Search Premier.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Global Warming Affecting Penguin Species

Conservation biologist at the University of Washington, Dee Boersma says, "Mounting evidence points to climate change as the greatest threat to penguins, especially those species breeding in the Antarctic region."

Global warming has a big impact on the food supply for penguins, therefore making it difficult for breeding colonies to feed their young. Scientists say that the warming of the ocean decreases the oxygen level of the "marine-invertebrate prey to reproduce."

10 of the 17 penguin species in the world are categorized as endangered.

Rockhopper penguins living in New Zealand have decreased in number from about 1.6 million to 100,000 over a forty year period. Between 1971 to 2003, winter temperatures in Antarctica had increased 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit. According to French scientists, "It was recorded that penguins and other seabirds arrived an average of nine days later to set up territories, court, and lay eggs than in 1950." Antarctica is surrounded by 10 feet of ice, covering 7 million square miles. In the summer, it melts to about 1.5 million square miles. However, during the winter, the krill (penguin food) feed on microscopic algae under the ice. If the krill don't eat, the sea birds can't eat, and it becomes a vicious cycle.

Also, if penguins have to swim out too far to find a solid refuge that will hold up for the molting season, they will die at sea. There was a big storm in September 2006, blowing all the ice far out to sea. Emperor chicks went with it, but were not able to survive without feathers.

This is very disheartening to hear about. I am going to research what can be done to help them. It's so unfortunate that they are suffering because of global warming, and I want to do something to help prevent it.

Line, Les. (2007). The Shrinking World of Penguins.
National Wildlife, 45 (5).Retrieved March 18, 2008, from Academic Search Premier.