In the months of March and April, emperor penguins journey to nesting areas where large numbers of penguins gather for breeding. The journey can be as long as 75 miles. Males and females pair off and will stay together for the remainder of the year. In June, the female will lay one egg. The egg has a particularly thick shell which helps protect it while it waits to hatch.
Laying the egg takes a toll on the mother, so she soon transfers it over to her male mate carefully. The mother will then depart back to the sea, while the male’s job is to incubate the egg by holding it between his legs for safety and warmth. About 75 days later, the egg will hatch, a process that can take quite some time due to the egg’s thick shell.
The newly hatched chick is sustained by a substance produced by the father called “crop milk”. Aside from emperor penguins, only pigeons and flamingoes are able to produce such a substance. Soon after the chick hatches, the mother will return to help care for the baby. Then it is the father’s turn to head to sea and regain his strength through feeding.
The parents will then take turns, with one caring for the chick while the other gathers food at sea. After about 50 days of this, both parents will leave to get food, while chicks will huddle together for warmth. Around December, parents and their chicks will begin their journey together back to the sea.