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Reproductive Behaviors of Penguins

    Breeding Season

    • Most species of penguins breed during the spring and summer months, though emperor penguins, native to Antartica, breed during the antartic winter months which are June through August. King penguins have the longest breeding cycle of all species of penguins, lasting up to 14 months.

    Courting

    • Courting behaviors are different depending on the species of penguin, but each species uses auditory as well as visual displays to attract a mate. In most species, male penguins are the ones that establish a nesting site, not females. Once the male has located an area for nesting, it begins to attract a mate. Most penguins perform a maneuver known as trumpeting. This is where the male birds throw their head from side to side in an attempt to attract a female. Some penguins couple this move with squawking in order to get more attention. Penguins also often bow to one another which lessens the chance of aggression. The birds lower their heads, pointing their bills at their mate's feet.

    Mutual Display

    • After penguins have selected a mate, many perform a mutual display. This is an act performed together by the mating pair which seems to strengthen their bond with one another. Some species of penguin, such as brush-tailed and crested penguins, stand facing one another while stretching their heads and necks back and forward in unison. Mutual displays continue even after the egg is laid and often occur when parents are switching places to take their turn guarding the egg.

    Monogamy

    • Most species of penguin are monogamous, meaning that they mate with only one penguin throughout the entire mating season. However, some female penguins can have up to three mates in one season and some males can have up to two. In some species of penguin, the mating pair find each other in the nest breeding season and mate again. Gentoo penguins re-mate about 90 percent of the time. When a female selects a different mate, this is because her mate from the previous breeding season does not return to the nesting site or he returns after she has already selected another mate.

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