Emperor Penguin

Aptenodytes forsteri

Click to view a larger image. Click to view a larger image. bird bird

Museum specimen featured in the Wild exhibition
Source: Museum Victoria

Emperor Penguin
Image: Paul Souders
Source: Corbis

Type: bird

Emperor Penguin Emperor Penguin
Image: Paul Souders
Source: Corbis

Conservation Status

Secure Vulnerable Endangered Extinct  ]

Emperor Penguins have a large, stable population (estimated at 270 000 – 350 000 individuals in 1992) and there are no current threats to their survival. But in the longer term the changing climate will broadly affect Antarctic wildlife because of ice melt and declining prey availability.



Emperor Penguins are carnivores.

They eat mostly fish and squid, also some krill.


Emperor Penguin relative size depiction as described below

Size relative to a cat and a woman.

19–46 kg
112–115 cm

Amazing Emperor Penguins

Emperor Penguins thrive in the coldest, most extreme environment on Earth— Antarctica. Like all penguins, they do not fly and clumsy walkers because their wings, feet and body shape are adapted to diving and swimming. Their feathers, which look more like fur, capture a layer of air that insulates and helps keep them afloat.

These birds can hold their breath for up to 20 minutes while diving. They have solid bones that resist crushing under the incredible water pressure experienced during their 500 m dives.

The striking black and white plumage of Emperor Penguins helps to hide them from predators while swimming. From below, their white bellies blend in with the reflective water surface while their dark backs provide camouflage from above. They also have bright yellow patches around their ears.

In winter, Emperor Penguins walk almost 20 km across the ice to their breeding territories. Pairs bond closely, and the female lays one egg before returning to the ocean to feed. The males huddle in huge congregations to keep warm, incubating the egg on top of their feet for two months. In spring the mothers return and each female locates her mate by the sound of his call. She feeds the chick by regurgitating food. Both parents take turns to brood and catch food for the chick until late summer, when Emperor Penguins return to the sea until the next breeding season.

Did You Know?

Emperor Penguins

  • are the world’s largest penguins
  • can drink saltwater and excrete excess salt through special glands
  • dive over 500 m below the ocean surface in search of food


Emperor Penguin distribution map

Emperor Penguins live in Antarctica. They live in the cold oceans and breed on the sea ice.


Other animals from the Antarctic

Southern Elephant SealSnow Petrel

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