Why Are These Baby Emperor Penguins Jumping From A 50-foot Cliff?

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For the first time, experts have captured video footage of emperor penguin chicks jumping off a cliff in Antarctica. This “never-before-seen” footage was recorded using a drone in January 2024. 

The video shows around 700 fledglings gathering on top of an ice shelf about 50 feet above the ocean and taking their first swim in the water below. 

Image credit: Bertie Gregory

Fledgings are young birds that have grown feathers and are learning to fly. It’s believed that the chicks naturally gather along the cliffside despite the danger of standing about 50 feet above the water. 

Can you believe it? 

But Why Do They Do That?

Emperor penguins usually raise their young on floating platforms of sea ice. Once the baby penguins are about 5 months old, they shed their baby feathers and take their first swim from a height of around 1-2 feet (0.3 to 0.6 m). 

Unfortunately, due to global warming, the sea ice in Antarctica is melting rapidly. This causes more emperor penguin chicks to nest on the permanent ice shelf attached to the land. Because of this, the penguin chicks now have to jump from higher heights into the water. 

Scientists believe that penguins are being forced to adapt as sea ice declines. These young penguins are driven by hunger to make the risky jump into the water to feed. Sadly, doing so could result in emperor penguin chicks dying.

In January 2024, a documentary series called Secrets of the Penguins captured the first-ever video footage of emperor penguin chicks leaping from high cliffs. The documentary will debut on Earth Day 2025 on National Geographic and Disney+.

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