Penguin chicks are just as persistent as human children it seems. At least that’s what I learned when I watched a King penguin chick endlessly nag its mother for food. In the Falkland Islands, we were lucky enough to visit this amazing beach that was home to several different types of penguins, including the mighty King penguins with their chicks.
King penguins lay eggs only every other year since the raising of their offspring takes about a year before they are ready for a new little one. The dozen chicks we were seeing at the beach were born last year and about to become adults to go off to the sea. Several were in the process of moulting and had their adult feathers come through. That looked quite funny for some of them, like in a penguin wearing a short brown coat around its shoulders because of the cold weather. They were also looking extremely tall — taller than their parents because of their juvenile coat being all fluffy and giving them an extra inch.
Not having been in the water and able to feed themselves, the chicks can do nothing but stand around all day and wait for their parents to bring food. Their brown fluffy coats are meant to keep them warm when they are little but they aren’t waterproof like the adult feathers are.
As we approached the beach, several of them seemed tired, or perhaps bored, and were just laying on the sand. With their big feet pushed all the way out and occasionally flapping a wing, it was an adorable view of “it’s been a really rough day” in penguin land. Others were standing completely still and putting their beaks high up into the wind. It was unclear to me whether they were sleeping this way but probably not. Others had their beaks tucked away under their wing which rather looked like they were taking a nap. Yet others were cleaning their coats and actually moving around a little bit.
However, there was one very active chick. It kept making high pitch noises and tapping its mothers beak and face to encourage her to produce some food. What did the mother do? Exactly nothing
Well, sometimes, she would move a few steps for the pup to follow her. Then the same spectacle repeated itself. Occasionally, she interacted with the chick by picking on its coat and making some noises herself. But usually not for long as it seemed to encourage to chick to keep begging. But in order to get any food, one of the parents needs to actually go to see to bring something home. We could not tell when this would happen but it seemed like it might be a while.
This back and forth between the chick and mother went on for at least half an hour, and probably much longer than the time we spent there to witness it. With a big smile, several of us onlookers were reminded of our kids asking for a new toy in the store, or begging us for wanting ice cream for dinner. So yes, sometimes, the youngsters just have to be patient and wait.
As a mother myself, I just hope that this chick got all they food it needs to grow big and strong. That is critically important for their survival and their conservation efforts underway. And that, by now, all of the chicks are happily flying through the beautiful waters around the Falkland Islands living their best penguin lives.