Emperor penguins are the largest penguins on Earth. At almost 4 feet tall and weighing 50 to 90 pounds, these penguins grow to be the same size as many elementary school students!

Emperor penguins live in Antarctica, the coldest habitat on Earth. Temperatures in Antarctica can drop as low as -140° F. The shape of its body helps the emperor penguin survive life in these frigid temperatures.

The emperor penguin’s body has a thick layer of blubber insulated by a thick layer of down covered by feathers. These three layers provide triple protection from harsh conditions and extreme cold. In addition to trapping body heat in, the down feathers also keep cold air and water out.

The emperor penguin’s diet consists mostly of fish, squid and crustaceans. It catches its dinner by diving into the sea.

Although humans can’t stay underwater very long before they need to come up for a breath, emperor penguins can remain submerged for up to 18 minutes at a time!

This is possible thanks to specialized body systems. The emperor penguin’s blood allows it to function even with very low oxygen levels. In order to use as little oxygen as possible while diving, the emperor penguin can also slow its metabolism and stop any nonessential organ functions.

Each winter, the emperor penguin walks 30 to 75 miles over ice to breed. A single breeding colony can include thousands of penguins.

When a female emperor lays an egg, she immediately rolls it onto the father penguin’s feet. Male penguins care for the eggs until it is hatching time. During this time, male penguins can lose up to half of their body weight because they stay on shore caring for the egg and do not return to the sea to eat.

About seven weeks after birth, emperor penguin chicks form groups called “creches.” The penguins in a creche huddle together for protection and warmth, but they continue to be fed by their parents. Emperor penguin chicks can identify their parents from the group of adult penguins by the sound of their call.

At six months of age, emperor penguin chicks are fully grown. At this time, the adult penguins and all the chicks return to the open sea together. In the wild, emperor penguins live to be about 20, although some have lived to be 50 years old.

The emperor penguin, along with nine other species of penguins, may soon be included under the United States Endangered Species Act. Warming seas and industrial fishing have begun to change fish populations, making it more difficult for penguins to find enough food. The emperor’s habit and breeding colonies are also becoming disrupted by tourism.


14 Join the Discussion

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars  (29 votes, avg. 4.17 out of 5)
    • How COOL that you are the first Wonder Friend to leave us a comment on this Wonder of the Day®, Kendall! We appreciate you exploring this Wonder and letting us know you were here! :-)

  1. Dear Wonderopolis,
    OMG, thank you for telling me this wonder! I think those penguins are so cute! I think tomorrow’s wonder is about penguins, again! BTW, this is so cool, Kendall is my sister. Love ya, Kenzie!
    Paige ;)

    • We’re glad you enjoyed the PENGUIN Wonder, Paige! Thank you for always leaving us happy, enthusiastic comments! We can tell you love to learn new things and we do, too! :-)

  2. Senora Waingort’s grade 2 class says:

    We really liked the music in the video. Are those penguins calm sometimes? Those penguins look like the penguins in the movie Happy Feet. We think it’s funny that one of the penguins was trying to fly by flapping its wings at the beginning of the movie. The penguins looked cute. How did you know what the penguins were saying?

    • Happy Tuesday, Senora Waingort’s grade 2 class! We really enjoyed hearing from you today! You guys did some GREAT WONDERing about penguins! We think the people who made the video might have just guessed what they THOUGHT the penguins might be saying. It’s fun to think about how animals communicate with each other, isn’t it? :-)

    • Thanks for letting us know you liked the video for this Wonder of the Day® about penguins, Fernando! We really appreciate hearing that and we’re REALLY glad you stopped by Wonderopolis today! :-)

    • Thanks for leaving us another GREAT comment today, Sarah! We hope you had FUN learning about penguins with us in Wonderopolis! :-)

  3. Hi I really loved this video and did you know? I really love all animals soooo much!! I really hope you guys keep posting about animals anyways I really loved the part that a penguin are trying to fly.

    Sincerely Kezia :)

  4. Awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww. That video was so cute. I love penguins. They used to be my number one until wolves came in. Sorry penguins. I still love ya but you’re just number 2 now.

    • Penguins, wolves, and animals– oh my! We think it’s cool that you have an interest in many types of animals! We Wonder which type of habitat you’d prefer to live in… a penguin’s or a wolf’s? :)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>


  • Wonderopolis on Facebook
  • Wonderopolis on Pinterest
  • Print

Have you ever wondered…

  • What is an emperor penguin?
  • How long can an emperor penguin stay underwater?
  • What is an emperor penguin creche?

Wonder Gallery

Wonder #118 - Emperor Penguin Static Image2Vimeo Video

Try It Out

If you want to meet an emperor penguin, you’ll need to travel all the way to Antarctica… or will you? Try this cut-and-fold paper craft to experience a bit of the Antarctic without ever leaving home!


Still Wondering

Learn more about the emperor penguin’s habitat and behaviors through National Geographic Xpeditions’ What’s Happening to the Emperor Penguins? lesson plan.


Wonder Categories/Tags

Wonder What’s Next?

Wonderopolis is in a bit of a sticky situation! Want to know what makes Super Glue® so super? Check out tomorrow’s Wonder of the Day.

Upload a Photo or Paste the URL of a YouTube or SchoolTube Video.