The egg is laid
In the Antarctic autumn, the Emperor penguins go inland to their breeding grounds. The female lays one egg, which she then passes to her mate. He takes it on top of his feet and hides it under a warm flap of skin and feathers which comes down over his feet. He will brood the egg like this, and care for the chick when it is first hatched, because the female birds now set off for the coast where they spend the winter feeding and building up their strength.


The winter huddle
The males spend the winter at the breeding grounds, brooding their eggs. They huddle together to keep warm through the winter darkness, while the snow falls, the wind screams, and the southern lights play across the sky. They shuffle in the huddle so that they take it in turns to be at the cold edge or the warm cantre of the group. They have no food all winter, but live on their built up fat reserves. In the early spring the chicks hatch and the males feed them from a gland in their throat which secretes a sort of milk, till the females return.


Raising the chick
In the spring the females return and take over feeding the chicks, while the males go to the coast to feed, then by late spring the families are reunited and they go to the coast together to feed and teach the chick to find food. By the time the autumn comes the chick will be able to look after himself, because he will be left by himself at the coast while his parents return to the breeding grounds to start the whole cycle again. The chick will not find a mate and go to the breeding grounds himself till he is about four years old.



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