I have now seen Emperor penguins on three different occasions. And, they have not lost their appeal. But they are losing their feathers!! I could sit and watch them for hours.
The Emperors have moved away from the ice edge to moult. This year, approximately 14 penguins chose Pegasus road as their moulting site. The Emperor’s coat fades from dark black to brown starting in November before the yearly moult in Jan/Feb. New feathers emerge before the old feathers are lost to help preserve heat. The new feathers then push out the old ones. It takes approximately 34 days for the entire process. Then they emerge with the pristine tuxedo’s that we are all familiar with.
The first penguins I saw were the first three emperors to arrive near McMurdo. A shuttle driver friend dropped me off and I spent 20 minutes alone, in complete silence, with these amazing animals!
They are just starting to lose their feathers.
The next time I had the opportunity to visit the penguins, I went with friends on a rec trip. It was cold! The number of penguins increased to 14 and they were all in different stages of moulting. My favorite penguin was this guy:
Even his penguin friend looked frightened. You can see the gorgeous black feathers emerging from under the old ones. But, it does not look like a comfortable process.
T.J. and I visited the penguins one last time before he returned to Christchurch. It was great to share the Antarctica penguin experience with him!
My favorite penguin from the prior visit was looking better, with only a few old feathers left to fall out. Others were starting to change, though and looked draped in fur.
There are now piles of feathers everywhere!