Huddle observations

Fred Olivier
18 February 2008

Category: Penguins


Penguins moving between huddles

The temperature’s -21°C and it’s a windy but clear afternoon. It’s a good enough day but the wind is hard on the fingers. Most of our work now consists of observing the huddle in the three or four hours of twilight available to us and record time-lapse shots to catch subtle dynamics and interactions. Four large huddles have now formed at the bottom of the iceberg, a bit further to the west. Few birds were seen leaving today.

The huddles are now quite compact but still break intermittently, with a lot of birds walking away in a procession towards other huddles to reform a tight agglomeration. In previously formed huddles, the penguins that are latest to arrive stay huddled even if the rest of the huddle breaks. This suggests a form of heat regulation, as this happens at regular intervals of about two hours.

These constant changes also make counting them difficult… A good way to count emperor penguins is to wait until they all stand together quietly in one place. Taking photos of the huddle is the next best alternative and even then I have to wait for them penguins to be less active. It is especially hard in very low light.

Originally posted: 8 June


What's it really like living side by side with emperor penguins? Read more about Fred's experiences in Antarctica.

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