Saturday, December 18, 2010

Little People Of Antarctica - In Love

"They are extraordinarily like children, these little people of the Antarctic world, either like children, or like old men, full of their own importance and late for dinner, in their black tail-coats and white shirt-fronts — and rather portly withal."

Anyone who has been to Antarctica will appreciate these words by Apsley Cherry-Garrard, an English explorer in the early 20th century. I have written a bit about these little cuties in previous posts, and will write some more in the future. Today, however, we'll talk about romance.

Penguins are very social birds, and every summer they return to the same place to build a new nest and mate. The males return first from wintering in the icy ocean to build a nest for their loved ones, while the females continue to stock up on fish and krill. The male will wait for the same female he's been with in past summers. Isn't that romantic? Well, the little dirty secret is that if the female does not return soon enough, the male will promptly find another female to bring to his nest. The poor old female will then have to find another male when she finally comes home... Scratch that, and it does sound like a promising life-long relationship.

So, whether it's the old couple or a new one, nobody is going to lay an egg and have an heir to her man without some romancing by him first! Penguins - in the following photos Chinstrap penguins - have a very elaborate ritual in which the male has to prove how much he missed the female for an entire winter. It goes like this: (click on any photo to enlarge it)

1. Sing me a love song


2. Ooh, nice! I will let you almost kiss me and I want to hear how much you've missed me.

3. I'm not convinced yet! Now, bite my toes to show me how much you love me!


4. All right, I'll take you as my male for another year. Oh, my love, come here!

Now isn't this romantic? I stood there on the shore watching this, trying to focus on my duty as a photographer while my big smile and giggles shake the camera.

To end the ritual, Chinstrap penguins perform some sort of a dance. Here it is, in blowing wind (hence the background noise), straight from the Antarctic Peninsula:

Don't you hate it when the movie ends with the romance and not the Real Thing? In a future post, we'll continue to review the love life of penguins!

In the meanwhile, to read some more about penguins and other Polar facts, go to my post Penguins In Alaska? Polar Bear In Antarctica?


Rami said...

Beautiful! "Well, the little dirty secret is that if the female does not return soon enough, the male will promptly find another female....." - "soon enough" like minutes? hours? interesting solution....

Jess said...

Hi Eyal, Another awesome post! I sent it along to several of my friends and everyone enjoyed it so much. The photos are great too. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences and for adding your humorous commentary! Welcome home, though I am sure you are already planning your next trip to the ice. I look forward to more updates... keep them coming as they are much appreciated!

Bernadine said...

How sweet! I've decided to find me a "penquin" for some lovin'. :)

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