Emperor Penguins

Of all the penguins that can be found in Antarctica, none are larger or more popular than the emperor penguins, which were made famous in the movie March of the Penguins. This movie largely documents the rigorous plight of these Antarctic penguins come mating season. Once the females lay their single eggs, the eggs are quickly rolled on top of the feet of the male emperor penguins, who incubate them by hiding them under a fold of skin that hangs from their bellies. For approximately nine weeks in the dead of winter, the male penguins protect their precious eggs, huddling in groups to stay warm. The temperatures in Antarctica can drop as low as minus 140 degrees in the winter, so body heat is a very coveted thing.

The emperor penguins aren't only the largest penguins in Antarctica. They are also the largest penguins on earth and stand almost four feet tall on average. As for their weight, it typically varies from 70 to 90 pounds, though some are lighter. After the female emperor penguins lay their eggs, they usually return to the sea to forage, only to return to the grouping of males to help care for the hatched chicks. It's one of nature's most interesting phenomena, especially when you consider the fact that while the males incubate the eggs, they have no access to food, water, or sunlight! As one can imagine, the males are pretty hungry once it comes time for them to return to the sea. Emperor penguins give their chicks a head start by breeding in the wintertime. Once the weather warms up, the chicks are well ahead of the game.

Emperor penguins aren't the only kind of penguins that you can expect to see in Antarctica. King penguins are another species that calls the area home, and they are the second largest penguins on earth. One of the things that distinguish these penguins from other Antarctic penguins is the fact that they can dive far deeper. While foraging, king penguins commonly dive to depths of 350 to 700 feet! As for breeding grounds, these penguins use the subantarctic islands as their preferred sites. These islands are those that can be found just north of the Antarctic Circle. Some king penguins even breed in Tierra del Fuego, which is the name for the southern tip of the South American continent. As such, those visiting southern Chile or Argentina don't have to cross the infamous Drake Passage to get to Antarctica if they want to see some penguins.

While enjoying an Antarctica vacation, other penguin species that you are likely to see include adelie penguins, chinstrap penguins, and gentoo penguins. The adelie penguins are the smallest penguins that inhabit Antarctica. On average they weigh no more than nine pounds, with some topping out at around thirteen pounds. One of the best places to see adelie penguins is Ross Island, which is in McMurdo Sound. As for the chinstrap penguins, they get their name from the thin black band of fur that essentially frames their faces. This thin band looks very much like a chinstrap, and it gives the penguins the appearance of wearing a helmet. Chinstrap penguins are Earth's most numerous penguins, and they live and breed in sizable colonies.

Like the chinstrap penguins, the gentoo penguins have a peculiar stripe on their heads that helps to identify them. You'll know you're looking at a gentoo penguin if you see a white stripe that goes from eye to eye. Like the other Antarctic penguins, the gentoos feed on fish. Krill, which is a small kind of shrimp, is also a big part of the penguin diet. Whether they are feeding or breeding, observing the Antarctic penguins is one of the most rewarding things to do on an Antarctica vacation. Penguins aren't the only animals that you can view here, however. Antarctica and the waters that surround it are also home to whales, seals, and numerous bird species.

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