Friend vs. Foe


Penguins vs. Skuas

Of the 17 penguin species, Adelies, Chinstraps and Gentoos, averaging 30″ in height (males weigh from 10 to 18 lb., and females slightly less) are the most prominent on the Antarctic peninsula and surrounding islands, where they spend about half their time on land and half in the ocean.

Further south, at the South Pole, where it is much colder, the Emperor Penguin reaches 5′ in height.

Antarctic penguins form breeding colonies ranging from thirty to thousands of pairs, and establish their nesting grounds between June and November. Each of the Antarctic penguins species create their own separate breeding colonies, where each penguin pair construct a nest from stones, grass and moss, in which are laid two white, spherical eggs that are incubated by both male and female for 30 to 40 days. Penguin chicks fledge 2 to 3 months later, but continue to be fed by their parents for 2 to 6 months.

The Gentoo are readily distinguished by their orange-red bill and conspicuous white patches above each eye. They have pale whitish-pink webbed feet and fairly long tails, which is the most prominent tail of all penguins. The gentoo penguin trumpets loudly with its head thrown back.

Antarctic penguins reach sexual maturity at the age of two years, typically return to their previous year’s nest, and are loyal to breeding partners, with many forming long-lasting pair bonds.

Walking with their rather comedic, waddling gate on land, with flippers extended for balance; on downward slopes penguins readily flop over and slide on their bellies. In the water where their streamlined body and flippers provide propulsion up to 20 miles per hour, penguins reach depths of  200 meters in pursuit of their diet of Atlantic krill, squid, and fish.

Breeding on sub-Antarctic islands and the Antarctic peninsula, their non-breeding range is not fully known, but they have been found as far north as New Zealand, Australia and Argentina.

Penguins are the only warm-blooded creature able to tolerate Antarctica winters, which is one of the coldest environments on Earth. A thick layer of fat under their skin, covered by feathers that help to insulate them, provides a waterproof layer for extra protection.

Without any land-based predators, penguins are not afraid or even distressed by humans. Their biggest threat is the Leopard Seal — one of the sourthern-most species of seal and a dominant predator in the Southern Ocean.

Penguins’ single most feared foe, however, is the Skua, a large brownish, highly predatory seabird related to gulls that feed on other birds, penguin eggs and young penguin chicks, making them the penguin’s worst enemy. While skuas nest in southern latitudes, their habitat is open ocean, ranging widely at sea, moving far to the north in both the Atlantic and Pacific, feeding mainly on fish.

Penguins are certainly among the cutest creatures on earth. They are gregarious, living typically in large breeding colonies. Waddling, skimming and honking, and swimming in large groups, and furiously diving for food, their complete lack of concern for humans makes them even more endearing. 

Skua<br>Friend vs. Foe — 2014 Penguin<br>Friend vs. Foe — 2014 Skua II<br>Friend vs. Foe — 2014 Penguin II<br>Friend vs. Foe — 2014 Skua III<br>Friend vs. Foe — 2014 Penguin III<br>Friend vs. Foe — 2014 Penguin Colony<br>Friend vs. Foe — 2014 Skua IV<br>Friend vs. Foe — 2014