“They have wings, but they cannot fly.” So rhapsodizes Morgan Freeman’s at the beginning of The March of the Penguins. We love them for so much more than that! They are magical creatures, seemingly so different from us, in their natural tuxedos; but see them with their young and neighbors in that beloved documentary, and you see the heart of the penguin. They are social creatures, like us, and they look out for their own. They trade off with each other when standing in a circle, so that every one of them gets a chance in the middle to get warm.
Penguins hang out in large colonies called rookeries. A man meets a woman, they bond with each other, they mate, they produce an egg… the male pushes the egg onto his feet. It is protected by his “brood patch” (you heard me), a warm fold of feathers and fat that rest atop his feet. He stays with the egg for nine weeks, going without food the entire time (I did a three week cleanse, but I was eating fruit and veggies!). The female hunts and eats, coming back to relieve the male and feed the baby penguin by passing it food through her beak, while the male hunts for food of his own. Together, in perfect unison, they trade off and raise their young. They mate for life. Sounds like a great marriage to me!
Contrary to public belief, they live neither on the North Pole nor in the northern hemisphere… they are southern hemisphere peeps! In prehistoric times, there were penguins larger than humans. Today, they range in size from 40 cm, 2.2 lbs to 3 ft 7 in, 75 lbs or more. Eligible for a triathlon, they walk faster than humans and leap out of the water after swimming.
Waddle away, little guys and gals! Enjoy your black-tie parties!!