How Far Do Emperor Penguins Migrate?

Migration means the seasonal movement of animals from one region to another. During migration, birds can travel or fly vast distances. They use to move towards the south during winter to migrate. The majority of birds undergo migration, but not all. Though penguins are birds they can’t fly for movement, instead they walk towards their nesting colonies — especially emperor penguins, the species which is known to be the largest among all penguins.

Emperor penguins are best known for their migration characteristics. In search of their survival needs, they all migrate towards nesting grounds. Emperor penguins migrate every year. Now, we get to know what migration means, let us see when, where, and why do emperor penguins migrate?

Emperor Penguins March

When and where do emperor penguins migrate?

Emperor penguins begin their migrating routine at the beginning of March, beginning of the autumn season in which the ice gets reforms and thickens to support the penguins. They travel around 60-100 miles to reach their breeding colonies. Every year they come back for the same place. Their nesting colony is known as ‘rookery.’ Every penguin in the Antarctic undergoes migration at the same time and the same place. So they all travel together to reach their destination.

Penguin Nesting Colony

Why do emperor penguins migrate?

Migration is a biological process, in which every animal and bird do from time to time to reach the places where they overcome their needs. It is because due to seasonal changes that their resting sites undergo. They have to resist the changes in temperature, availability of food, and other needed factors like to mate, finding a mate, populate their generation, etc. To overcome their needs, they have to migrate compulsory.

Migration habits of emperor penguins

Beginning of the cycle

After reaching the nesting colony, they give a call for mating and relocate its partner or finds a partner if it does not breed before. Then, they undergo courtship and mating. Female penguins lay an egg and transfer to the male penguin. They left the nesting colony and walked towards the open ocean in search of food.

Incubation of the egg

The male penguin’s responsibility is to take care of the egg for the next four months. They incubate the egg by keeping them on their feet and cover the egg from their thick fat layered feather-covered skin fold. By this egg can be warm with temperature 380C while the temperature outside will be around -350C.

Chick Hatching

After 65-75 days, chick comes out from the egg; male penguin still carries the baby penguin on its feet and feeds the young one by regurgitating its food from the esophagus. This chick can survive for weeks together. Until returning of females, the male penguin doesn’t go anywhere, even to have food. They can recognize each other by their distinctive calls.

To pamper the baby, female penguin returns to the nesting colony. The male penguin transfer the baby penguin to the female penguin’s brood pouch. Now, its turn for male penguins to get relief from the incubation duty and they all head towards the sea for food. Female penguins regurgitate the eaten food until the male reappears.

Growth of the Chick

When male returns, females get back to hunt food and male pamper the chick and vice versa. This process continues until the baby penguin gets nine months old. Until the baby penguin can stand themselves on the ice, the parents don’t let the chick to ice. They carry in their brood pouch because they don’t have a thick layer of skin on their feet. When they are growing, it needs more energy, so both parents go hunting and get back to feed the chick, leaving the baby alone in the colony.

Emperor Parent Penguins with Chick

When summer arrives, the chick is mature enough to walk on the ice. They begin to walk with their parents and start to learn how to swim and get their food when they get in to get waterproof plumage.  

Parent Penguin with Young Penguin

 End of The Cycle

At the time of January or February, penguins get fattened and prepare themselves for the breeding season. After getting four to five years old, they get matured, this migration process repeats for the next generation.


Emperor penguins walk up to 100 miles to reach their nesting colony as well as to achieve their needs. Every penguin in the Antarctic migrates at the same time and the same place. This migration repeats every year. Their generation happens, again and again, this migration behaviour to achieve their requirements of life.


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I got interested in penguins from a young age and as I grew I realized that penguins are such fascinating birds. I made it a mission to create a website where all information about penguins could be accessed in an easy to read format.

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