Hatching & Care of Young
- Chicks first "pip" by poking a small hole in the egg. They then chip at the shell until they can push off the top. Chicks take up to three days to chip their way out.
- Fine down feathers cover most newly hatched chicks. (King penguin chicks hatch naked and grow down feathers within a few weeks.)
- Down feathers of different species may be white, gray, black, or brown.
- Down feathers are not waterproof, and chicks must remain out of the water until they acquire their juvenile plumage.
- Adult plumage is acquired at about one year.
This king penguin chick hatched featherless but will
grow down feathers in a few weeks.
- In all species, the coloration and markings of chicks separate them from adults. Scientists believe that the chicks' coloration elicits parental behavior from the adults, and that adult penguins do not perceive the young birds as competitors for mates or nesting sites.
Scientists believe that chick coloration
elicits parental behavior from the adults.
- The striking markings of emperor chicks may help to make the chicks more visible against the ice and snow, significant because emperors don't have individual nest sites where the young can be found.
The markings of emperor penguin chicks may make
them more visible against the ice and snow.
Care of the Chicks
- Chicks require attentive parents for survival. Both parents feed the chick regurgitated food. Adults recognize and feed only their own chick. Parents are able to identify their chick by its distinctive call.
Penguins feed their chicks regurgitated food.
- Male emperor penguins exhibit a feature unique among penguins. If the chick hatches before the female returns, the male, despite his fasting, is able to produce and secrete a curdlike substance from his esophagus to feed the chick, allowing for survival and growth for up to two weeks.
- Parents brood chicks (keep them warm) by covering them with their brood patch.
Chicks require attentive parents for survival.
- In some species, partially grown chicks gather in groups called crèches. (Crèche is a French word for crib.)
- Crèches provide some protection from predators and the elements.
- Crèche were once thought to be functional nurseries with adults providing protection and communal care. This has proven not to be the case. Parents feed only their own chick.
- Temperate or subtropical crested penguins, like the macaroni or erect-crested, and penguins that nest in burrows, like the fairy or Humboldt, do not form crèches.
- A chick depends on its parents for survival between hatching and the growth of its waterproof feathers. This period may range from seven weeks for Adélie chicks to 13 months for king chicks. For most penguin species, once a chick has replaced its juvenile down with waterproof feathers it is able to enter the water and becomes independent of its parents. Juvenile Gentoo penguins that have undergone a complete moult, leave the colony to forage at sea during the day but return to the colony with some still receiving food from their parents for 25 to 35 days following the moult.
Chicks are completely dependant upon their parents from the time
they hatch to the growth of their waterproof feathers.