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Polar Holidays: Know Your Penguins

April 24, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 146

With their singular appearance and entertaining antics, penguins are some of the world's most beloved animals, and yet many of the most iconic species live far from human civilisation; the best way to observe them in the wild is by taking polar holidays to the Sub-Antarctic islands of Australia and New Zealand.

As well as majestic land and seascapes, opportunities to see whales and dolphins and fascinating birds including albatrosses, cormorants and petrels, such holidays bring the chance to observe a range of different penguins. For an introduction to the species that you're likely to see, and the best ways to identify them, read on.

Snares Penguin

Polar holidays offer the very best way to experience the delightful thrill of seeing a penguin colony in its natural, unspoilt environment. The Snares Penguin breeding colonies are found, as their name suggests, on New Zealand's Snares Islands. They establish colonies under forest cover or on coastal rocks, building nests from grass, twigs, pebbles and mud - usually with the males doing the building, although, unlike some species, the nest building happens after courtship. These penguins can be identified by their bright yellow eyebrow-stripe.

King Penguin

Recognisable by the solid orange-yellow patch behind their cheeks, King Penguins are the second-largest penguin species, and one of the most impressive birds you'll see on your polar holidays. They are great divers, frequently going down over 100 metres to hunt, and are very well adapted to their environment with four layers of feathers [a top layer of oiled, waterproof feathers over three layers of down]. Like many other penguin species, they share nesting duties and incubate in shifts, and later take turns with foraging duties.

Royal Penguin

A species of crested penguin, the Royal Penguin is identifiable by its yellow crest and white face - unlike the otherwise very similar-looking Macaroni Penguins, which have black faces. They nest on or near the beaches, making shallow holes and lining them with stones, with both parents taking turns to keep the eggs warm. When watching Royal Penguins on polar holidays, you can tell the males and females apart by size, with males being larger, and, during the nursing period by behaviour. Males look after the chicks while females go out for food; later, both parents look for food while chicks remain together in crèches.

Rockhopper Penguin

The Rockhopper Penguin is distinguished by spiked yellow feathers at the sides of its head, and is also noted for the behaviour that gave it its name: jumping over obstacles instead of sliding around them as many other penguins do.

Gentoo Penguin

Identifiable by its red beak and the stripe running across the top of its head, between the eyes, the Gentoo Penguin also has a longer tail than most. Their colonies are formed near the coast or inland, often in grassy areas, and their nests are built up out of stones - the search for the best-fitting and most attractive stones can lead to fights between male nest-builders.

Marissa Ellis-Snow is a freelance nature writer. If you're looking for polar holidays, Naturetrek specialises in expert-led natural history and wildlife tours worldwide. Naturetrek brings over 25 years of experience to polar holidays and other spectacular regions on Earth.

Source: EzineArticles
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