Penguin Two penguins face each other with heads angled downward


Penguin calls (vocalizations) are individually identifiable, allowing mates to recognize each other and also their chick. This is important because members of a large colony of penguins are nearly indistinguishable by sight.

Research has identified differences in the calls of male and female emperor penguins. These differences probably function in courtship and mate selection.



There are three main kinds of penguin calls.

  • The contact call assists in recognition of colony members. The contact call of emperor and king penguins can be heard one kilometer (0.6 mi.) away.
  • The display call is the most complex of all the calls and is used between partners in a colony. The call must convey information on territorial, sexual, and individual recognition.
  • The threat call is the simplest and is used to defend a territory and warn other colony members of predators.


Penguins communicate by vocalizing and performing physical behaviors called displays. They use many vocal and visual displays to communicate nesting territories, mating information, nest relief rituals, partner and chick recognition, and defense against intruders.