Emperor penguins are arguably one of the most unique birds on our planet. They’re majestic and extremely tough, but their very existence is under threat from climate change.
Parts of the Antarctic and Southern Ocean are warming rapidly, leading to melting sea ice, which is affecting some of the penguins' feeding grounds.
To minimise this threat, we’re doing what we can to encourage governments, industries and individuals to switch to renewable energy, as well as trying to ensure fisheries are sustainable.
You can also help by adopting a penguin. Your support will fund projects to monitor penguins and their movements and see how they're being affected by climate change.
Read on to discover why these bird are so amazing, and why they need our help.
Icy islanders, father's milk and the balancing act
Emperor penguin colonies only exist in the Antarctic, where they breed on frozen sea ice. This means they may be the only birds to never set foot on land.
As male emperor penguins are left in charge of the egg to keep warm before it hatches, if their chick hatches before the mother's return from feeding to help with its rearing, the father feeds it a milk-like substance composed of 59% protein and 28% lipid, which is produced by a gland in his oesophagus. This substance can only be produced by three birds in the world - male Emperor penguins, pigeons and flamingos.
The male Emperor penguin is the only species that incubates the egg in its brood pouch – a warm pouch of skin - while balancing it on top of his feet for around 65-75 consecutive days until it hatches. In all other penguin species, both parents take shifts incubating their egg.
Deep sea diving, happy feet and doubling down
Records show that Emperor penguins can dive down to 1,755 feet (535 m) to catch their prey spending, on average, 18 minutes underwater. This makes them the deepest divers of all birds.
Emperor penguins have proportionally smaller beaks and flippers compared to other penguins, this helps prevent heat loss.
To preserve heat, emperor penguins have a dense double layer of feathers – about 70 feathers per square inch – and large fat reserves.
Threats to Emperor penguins
Emperor penguins depend on sea ice for their main food source - krill. But parts of the Antarctic and Southern Ocean are warming rapidly, leading to melting sea ice. This is affecting some of the penguins' feeding grounds. Climate change is a huge threat to emperor penguins and many other Antarctic species, from krill to whales.
What can you do to help?
We’re encouraging governments, industries and individuals to switch to renewable energy to minimise this threat, as well as trying to ensure fisheries are sustainable. You can also help by adopting a penguin. You’ll be helping to fund projects to monitor penguins and their movements and see how they're being affected by climate change.