pecking

Don’t let this scene fool you. It looks like an Emperor penguin parent with its chick, but this chick is actually trying to get a free meal from a random adult penguin in the colony. Probably its real parents are out in the sea to feed and when the chicks are left alone they will try and lure other adult penguins to fill their hungry bellies. But as one of the biologists on board the Khlebnikov told us: evolution-wise it doesn’t make sense for an adult Emperor penguin to feed other penguins babies. The whole process of laying one precious egg deep in the hazardous polar winter and raising the chick by trekking many miles on the sea ice to the open sea to feed is so difficult and dangerous they cannot afford to feed other chicks than their own.

Parents and chicks recognize each other by a very specific series of tones and when another chick than their own will try to get a free meal the adult will peck it in the neck to send it away.

The last two photos are crops of the scenes above.

On the first photo it looks as if the adult Emperor penguin is lovingly cuddling the head of the chick, but on the second photo the cuddling has turned into pecking. This baby is not going to be fed by this adult. It will have to wait until its real mom and dad return from the sea with food.

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