Tag Archives: Emperor penguin

Amusing Monday: To survive, penguins have adopted odd behaviors

One of the strangest animals on Earth is the emperor penguin, a bird that exhibits some remarkable behaviors to help it survive under the harshest conditions.

One might wish that the penguins would fly away to a warmer area when the frigid cold of winter strikes the Antarctic each year, but this bird doesn’t fly at all. Instead, groups of penguins huddle together on open ice during the long winters. They take turns moving into the middle of the group to escape the worst of the chill winds and to warm up just a little.

Females lay a single egg and quickly abandon it, leaving the males to care for the egg while the females go hunting. For up to two months, the males will balance the egg on their feet, keeping the egg warm in a feathery “brood pouch.” During this time, the males will eat nothing while the females travel many miles to the sea to gorge themselves on fish, squid and krill. When the females return, they are ready to feed their newborn chicks some of this partially digested food, while the males are free to go and find food for themselves.

While these unusual birds can’t fly, their skills under water are quite amazing — and amusing. Their unique physiology allows them to dive much deeper than any other water bird, stay under water for more than 20 minutes, and eventually zoom back to the surface at an incredible rate, as shown in the first video on this page.

BirdNote, a regular program on many public radio stations, recently focused on penguins and the research of Jessica Meir, who wanted to know how penguins were able to swim so deep. Here’s the audio:

      1. 181010-Deep-diving-Emperor-Penguins

In an article in U.S. News and World Report, Jessica wrote, “One study revealed that diving emperor penguins have heart rates significantly lower than that of their heart rates at rest, During one emperor penguin’s impressive 18-minute dive, its heart rate decreased to as low as three beats per minute, with a rate of six beats per minute lasting for over five minutes during the dive. As heart rate is a very good indicator of how much oxygen is utilized, decreased heart rates during dives correspond to conservation of oxygen, enabling the animals to dive for a longer time.”

By the way, Jessica built upon her interest in science and expertise in physiology to become an astronaut in NASA’s space program. She tells her story in the video posted at the bottom of this page.

For other interesting tidbits about the life of emperor penguins, check out the website “Just Fun Facts.”

In a previous discussion about penguins, I talked about the large number of cartoon artists who decided that penguins should be friends with polar bears. This became an interesting and off-the-wall partnership, considering that polar bears and penguins never get together in the wild. These cartoonists have simply ignored the fact that polar bears live in the Arctic on the top side of the world, while penguins live in the Antarctic on the bottom. See Water Ways, Aug. 1, 2011. (Some of the attached videos have been removed from YouTube since that original post.)

On another occasion, I wrote about an orphan penguin found alone on a beach in New Zealand, more than 2,500 miles north of its home in Antarctica. I recounted the story of this penguin, dubbed Happy Feet, while following its rehabilitation and return to the wild via the Internet. See Water Ways, June 26, 2011.

The second video is a compilation of humorous situations involving penguins. Again, the video below shows Jessica Meir explaining at the USA Science and Engineering Festival how she made her life transition from science kid to professional biologist to future space explorer.

Folks worldwide write farewell notes for Happy Feet

UPDATE: Aug. 29, 2011

More than 1,700 people bid farewell to Happy Feet Sunday as officials at the Wellington Zoo made final preparations for his send-off today. The emperor penguin was visible in a glassed area. Nick Perry of The Association Press does a nice job with the story. AP’s Ed Donahue narrated the video below.

Happy Feet is now on his way. Follow the map to track his journey.

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Happy Feet, the emperor penguin who strayed far from home and ended up in New Zealand, will be released back into the wild on Monday. Remarkably, this single bird has captured the hearts of people worldwide.

If you have clicked on my “Recent Comments” in the right column, you have followed this penguin’s recovery at Wellington Zoo since my first posting in Water Ways back in June. (Updates are added onto the top.)

Gareth Morgan, who is helping to finance a tracking project for Happy Feet, has created an online farewell card for people to sign. Comments are coming in from throughout the world.

If you feel inclined, please gather your thoughts and add them to the card, which can be found on the Our Far South website. You can also read the hundreds of messages coming together by clicking on “Read other messages.” Some of my favorites:

Oh Happy Feet – you have brightened every day as we have watched you from halfway around the world. Your recovery became a symbol for us of hope, and humanity’s will to help and love all creatures here on Earth. I am so sad we won’t see your joyful soul every day via webcam, but my spirit is happy that you will return to the glorious freedom of the wild, and will think of you often with fondness. 

From Sarah Gledhill – Toronto, Canada

I hope we have all learned to love the seas a little more after watching you my friend. You have encouraged me to to as much as I can to keep the earth clean for all the animals. I wish you a wonderful life and be sure to tell all of the other penguins of your adventure with us. 

From Nancy Tibke – Kent, Washington. USA

Farewell beautiful pengie … you have made me smile and my heart glad. I hope you find a lovely family to enjoy your life with and get to eat lots of yummy fish. 

From jenny sparks – Christchurch

Sand is grey, snow is white, remember this, and swim right. Take care, Happy Feet. New Zealand loves you. 

From Dody – Wellington

Thank you Happy Feet. I love you and miss you so… Have a nice trip to home and hope you will enjoy rest of your life with family and friends!

 From Sachie Takayose – Tokyo, Japan

It’s amazing how one little penguin has so many people around the world pulling for him! Be well, our little friend. 

From Michele – United States

Be safe, Happy Feet! I hope that all of you (and not just your feet!) are happy that you will be on your way home soon. I’ll miss watching you from my computer at work while I’m supposed to be working. Be careful, be safe, and know that you are loved and missed! 

From Melissa – York, South Carolina, USA

Sweet Happy Feet…you will do just fine…don’t be afraid..you will find your freinds very soon. Just keep swimming south and don’t turn around! God will send his angels to guide you all the way. Bless you… 

From Barbara – Houston,Texas

Dear Happy feet I feel very sad that you are leaving.You are my favourite peguin in the whole wide world :o) 

From Cara Harris – Whitby

Dear Happy Feet, It’s been a privilege having you visit us. You have been a great ambassador for making people more aware of the plight of The Antarctic. Travel safely and live a long and happy life. Please don’t get lost again. You may not be so lucky next time. Lots of penguin hugs and flipper slaps. Jo, Bill & Hannah Turnbull, Gisborne , NZ

Hey buddy, sorry about that GPS ankle bracelet. Like they say, come on vacation, leave on probation! Keep your beak clean and you’ll be out of having to wear it in no time. Glad you are getting to go home. Next time, stop and ask for directions!

 From Jeff – Birmingham, AL USA

Goodbye Mate! Swim safe and please tell your fellas that humans are not so bad as they seem and that, if they want, they can keep this world amazing as it is..I wish you love and a long and happy life and thanks to have reminded us that we have humanity within us still. 

From Francesco Loretucci – Prestwick, Scotland

I love you Happy Feet! Even though I will miss seeing you everyday….knowing you will be heading to YOUR home makes me even happier. XOXO. 

From Rochelle – Matawan

Dear Happy Feet I am so glad you are well enough to return South to meet up with your fellow Emperor penguin buddies. Like millions of other you’ve captured my heart but all we want for you is to be safe and happy and back home but will miss you. Am so glad Dr Lisa will be on board “Tangaroa” anxiously watching over you until she says her goodbye’s and please do give her hug before you leave. Bon 

From Pat Browne – Port Elizabeth, South Africa

Oh dear Sir Happy Feet, you are going to be so missed by us. I have spent so much time just looking at you bobbing, twisting, spreading flippers, wiggling your little tail and seeing you go out the door was like my baby had walked for the first time. You be a good boy and take care of yourself and do not ever forget how much we love you.

 From Aileen Keery – Auckland, New Zealand

To the folks at the Wellington Zoo: Hope you realize that all these messages are really for you. You have not only saved a penguin, you have brightened the lives of countless people around the globe. Thank you & God bless you all. 

From Gaynor Sorrell – Fairfax Station, VA

God speed Happy Feet! You were found up the beach from my home in Raumati, yet as you, I to am far North from home in Canada. I also find myself prepairing to return south to my home just as you are . I believe if you understood the journey you are about to embark on was back to your home, you’d be filled with excitement & gratitude, as am I. You’ll be fine I’m sure! You’ve prooved your a fighter!

 From Vickie – Raumati NZ – Vancouver Canada