Category Archives: chicks

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Emperor penguin chicks in the snow.

Emperor penguin family.

Emperor penguin ready to toboggan downhill.

First encounter: curiosity on both sides.

Emperor penguin parent ready to regurgitate and feed its begging chick.

Part the emperor penguin colony of Snow Hill Island.

follow the leader

On our last day at the colony the Emperor penguins had moved to a place under a hill. The crew had positioned the 30-meter boundary rope alongside the hill and we, the yellow-coated penguins, were watching the spectacle below from behind the rope on top of the hill. The chicks were very inquisitive and climbed uphill all the time to check us out, after which they were called down by the parent penguins. The bravest of them takes the front position and the others simply follow.

inquisitive

Emperor penguin chicks are very playful and inquisitive.

On our last day at the colony the Emperor penguins had moved to a place under a hill. The crew had positioned the 30-meter boundary rope alongside the hill and we, the yellow-coated penguins, were watching the spectacle below from behind the rope on top of the hill.

The chicks climbed uphill all the time to check us out, after which they were called down by the parent penguins. This behavior went on for hours.

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.

will you feed me?

This chicks seems to be looking for its parents, who might well be both off to sea to forage. When they are, the abandoned chicks start to wander around in search for a meal.

Emperor penguins lay just one single egg and evolution-wise it doesn’t make sense for them to feed other penguins babies. The whole process of laying that 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. So seeing scenes like this, an adult with two chicks, doesn’t mean they are both his or her offspring. They could even be both random chicks, seeking shelter with a random adult.

Chicks looking for their parents and parents looking for their chicks, the daily routine in a Emperor penguin colony.

wandering chicks

A month after hatching the Emperor penguin chicks are encouraged by their parents to walk by themselves. This is necessary because the chicks grow so fast the parents have to forage both at te same time to be able to feed their offspring and themselves. When we visited the chicks were in their adolescent stage, about three months old, and they had formed groups for safety and warmth.

When both parents are off to sea to feed and the weather is good, the chicks are in constant search for their next meal. They follow each other wandering between the many groups of the the Snow Hill Island colony.

playing

Emperor penguin chicks checking out a cave-shaped pile of snow and ice. They were crowding in front of it, each one taking its turn to have a look inside.

On the last photo you can see the chicks playing around that cavity in the background.

exploring the world

Three pied avocet babies on their way to explore the big wide world.

Two pied avocet babies leaving mom’s protective wings while two other chicks are still underneath her belly.

The world is a cruel place. An adult punishes a baby pied avocet by biting it in its head, because it has entered a territory which was not its parents.