How Do Penguins Care for Their Young?

Christopher Michel/CC-BY-2.0

Penguins raise their chicks with dedication from egg to adolescence, when they are old enough to enter the water. According to Sea World, scientists believe the different coloration of penguin chicks encourages parenting behavior in adults. Both parents feed their chick, which they recognize by its call, by regurgitating food into its mouth.

Because many species of penguin live in cold climates, special care must be taken with the young. explains that when a female emperor or king penguin lays an egg, its mate immediately places the egg on top of his feet, away from the ice, and incubates it with a fold of skin. Emperor penguins spend more than two months incubating the egg this way, trading it from one parent to another so the other can hunt. Most other species suffer a shorter incubation period of a few weeks.

Sea World states that the chick can take up to three days to hatch from its egg, and it emerges covered in warm down. The down is not waterproof, so the chick is unable to hunt or go into the water until it grows its adult feathers after about one year. The hatched chick returns to the warm pouch beneath its parents until it is too large. In some species, the partially-grown chick then joins a crèche, or group of chicks, for protection, but it still receives food from its parents until it is able to hunt on its own.