Emperor Penguin – Facts and Information

Emperor penguins are the biggest out of all penguin subspecies. There are many facts about these well-known birds. So, let’s get into some emperor penguin facts.

Aptenodytes forsteri is the scientific name given to these penguins. They are the most populous penguin species and are native to Antarctica. Also, they are the tallest and heaviest penguins.

This guide will take you through the most common questions about this exciting penguin species.

Let’s dive in.

Emperor penguin facts


What size is an emperor penguin?

Emperor penguins are the largest penguin species. Adult emperor penguins will grow to a length of 1.1 to 1.3m.

Male and female emperor penguins grow to similar heights and plumage. They grow to this size when they are around 3 years old.

Emperor penguins weigh around 49 to 99lb (22 to 45kg). Their weights change during the year, mainly during breeding season.

What color is an emperor penguin?

Adults have a black dorsal (back) and a white ventral (front). They have some areas that are colored orange around their head, neck, and breast.

This is countershading and camouflages them in the water. The white hides them from predators below, and the black hides them from predators above.

Emperor penguin chicks have gray feathers with black and white heads. They lose this plumage within the first year of their life.

A full white chick was spotted in the western Ross Sea. It was said it wasn’t albino, as it didn’t have pink eyes.

Are male and female emperor penguins different?

Male and female emperor penguins are the same size and look the same. The only difference between them is their behavior around mating season.

60 percent of emperor penguins are females, so they compete with males. Males still have to work to attract females even though there are more females.

How fast is an emperor penguin?

Emperor penguins are fast swimmers and swim at a speed of 6 mph. When they need to get somewhere or are in danger, they can swim at around 9.5 mph.

On land, they walk slowly and don’t hop. Their maximum walking speed is 1.7 mph.

They can also slide down slopes on their bellies. This is called toboggan.


How long does an emperor penguin live?

On average, emperor penguins live around 15 to 20 in the wild. Some records suggest that they can live up to 40 years.

Many emperor penguins die when they are young.

Are emperor penguins endangered?

They are listed as near threatened by the IUCN assessment in 2020. It places them on their red list as a species at high risk of global extinction.

Their populations are decreasing, but there are no extreme fluctuations in numbers. Many emperor penguin chicks aren’t maturing and making it to adulthood.

The leading cause of this is climate change. Fisheries may also be responsible.

Are emperor penguins rare?

Emperor penguins are very rare outside Antarctica. Many colonies can range from a hundred to twenty thousand penguins inside Antarctica.

Threats and predators

Do emperor penguins have predators?

Orcas and leopard seals hunt emperor penguins. Leopard seals eat up to 15 penguins daily but often only eat weak or sick penguins.

Chicks have different predators like the south polar skua and southern giant petrels. These are big sea birds that often prey on juveniles.

What threats do emperor penguins face?

Sea-ice loss is a significant threat to emperor penguin populations. Climate change is resulting in the loss of emperor penguin habitats.

Fisheries also affect penguin populations by overfishing. When fish populations are exploited, penguins have no other food source and starve.


Where do emperor penguins live?

Emperor penguins only live in the wild in the south of Antarctica. Their habitats are called ‘fast ice,’ a floating piece of frozen ocean connected to the land.

They also live near the Ross Sea and the Weddell Sea, where they catch prey and raise their young.

Do emperor penguins migrate?

In early spring, emperor penguins migrate to breeding sites. They do this every year during the breeding season.

When breeding season is over, at the beginning of summer, emperor penguins will migrate back to the sea and feed there for the rest of summer.

Diet and foraging

What does an emperor penguin eat in the wild?

Emperor penguins eat Antarctic silverfish and other fish, krill, and squid. Penguins eat 4 to 6 pounds of food daily and sometimes eat more to build up body fat for winter.


How often do emperor penguins reproduce?

Emperor penguins mate every year and only take one mate. They begin courtship in March and begin laying eggs in May.

How long are emperor penguins pregnant?

After breeding, a female will begin laying eggs in May or June. The male will then take the egg and incubates it in his brood pouch for 65 days.

The female will go back to the sea and feed. She will gather food for the family and collect resources.

How many babies do emperor penguins have?

Unlike other penguin species, emperor penguins only lay one egg. Other species lay two eggs.

When are emperor penguins born?

After 65 days of incubation, a baby emperor penguin will hatch from July to August.

Where do emperor penguins have their babies?

They breed on sea ice in freezing conditions. When the female lays the egg, the male has to incubate it as there are no resources for a nest.

This breeding site is far away from the sea. Once the baby is born, they will return to the sea.

Do emperor penguins mate for life?

It is a widespread belief that emperor penguins mate for life, but they don’t.

They have one mate for a year, raise the chick with the mate then find a new one next season. There is a 15% chance that two penguins will mate again.

Emperor penguin chicks

What do baby emperor penguins eat?

Chicks eat the same as their parents. Adult emperor penguins will forage for the chicks and teach them to hunt when they are old enough.

How big are baby emperor penguins?

A baby emperor penguin weighs around 0.6 pounds (315 grams). This is tiny compared to their parents, who weigh up to 81 pounds.

An emperor chick can stand up to 6 inches compared to its 4 feet tall parents.

Do parent emperor penguins care for their babies?

Both female and male emperor penguins take care of their babies. When the eggs hatch, the female returns to the male.

She regurgitates the food for the chick while the male goes hunting for some food for himself. The parents will switch roles for the next 50 days, with one hunting and one feeding the chick.

When the chick is two months old, it will go with other chicks but depend on its parents for food. During summer, the chick will become independent and hunt and feed itself.


Do emperor penguins attack humans?

Emperor penguins will not attack a human if it isn’t provoked. They may attack someone if they approach them too fast, so they may attack them in self-defense.

Penguins don’t have any reason to be afraid of humans since they live in colder climates and have few predators.

Are emperor penguins aggressive?

They can get very aggressive if they are under attack. They can get very protective of their families.

Loud noises can make emperor penguins aggressive because they sense danger. It scares them into thinking predators are nearby.

Do emperor penguins bite?

Emperor penguins can bite with their long beaks. They have 3-inch beaks with a hook that can penetrate through the skin of a human.

They don’t have teeth and will use them to attack prey and grab their food. Serrated ridges along the top and bottom of their mouths help them swallow food.

They are pointed inward to help the food go down and prevent it from returning.

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