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Penguin Parents

January 18, 2015

Adelie penguin couple with their chicks, Image by BJ Sinclair from Hemispheric Asymmetries in Biodiversity (CC by 2.5)

I will meditate on the glorious splendor of Your majesty, And on Your wondrous works” (Psalm 145: 5).

Clad in what appear to be black and white tuxedos (the camouflage which protects them in the water), Adelie penguins stand a mere 18”-30”, and weigh only about 10-13 lbs. But they provide an inspiring picture of parenthood.

Native to Antarctica, Adelies reproduce in large breeding colonies during the Antarctic summer. The high temperature during this “mild” season may be as low as -20 degrees Celsius.

Alternately sliding on their bellies and marching forward on small webbed feet, the penguins make their way inland across the ice as far as 30 miles to find a spot safe from predators. The birds then produce two eggs which must be incubated for 32-34 days. In lean times, only one egg will survive.

Penguin parents share the duty of keeping their eggs warm. Once she has laid the eggs, the physically depleted female must leave to seek nourishment or she will die. The male Adelie takes the first shift with the eggs. He will not eat until his mate returns.

Fasting male penguins lose 1.76 oz per day. After 34 days they may weigh as little as 7 lbs, 11 oz with just 20% of their fat reserves remaining. If the female has not returned by this point – if she has fallen victim to a leopard seal, for instance – the male must abandon the nest or die of starvation, himself.

When she does return, the female will regurgitate food for the chicks hatched in her absence, while the male heads off to feed.

Adelie penguins remind us that the young are precious, and need a commitment by both parents for the best chance to survive and thrive. Among the least of God’s creatures, Adelies remind us that God’s provision is all around us, even in the darkest of times and the most difficult of conditions.


From → Christian, Faith, Religion

  1. beautiful example

  2. Just beautiful!

  3. Brenda permalink

    I am always amazed by the Lord’s creatures! I’ve watched documentaries about penguins and I find them fascinating. Like many other creatures, they have the capacity to grieve the loss of their offspring. They are a beautiful example of parental care.

  4. As I read your poignant article I had to think about my own parents’ divorce and how I felt when it happened. I felt like I had failed in my quest to be a “perfect child” for them so that I would not add pressure to their frail and self-centered relationship. I was 35 when they finally divorced and even then was heaped with guilt over it from within. My youngest sister was still at home and she STILL is suffering from the emotional abuse of two parents not working together to raise her in a safe atmosphere of love and it has added to the destruction of her own marriage.

    Yes, we humans could learn a lot from God’s creation for we are the only part of it that is out of whack with the Creator! Thank God that He sent His own Son to bring us back into ones with the Father and the Son by His great grace and love.

    Thanks for sharing this, dear Anna,

    • It saddens me greatly to hear this, Michael. Unfortunately, dysfunctional relationships are all too common. That you would have felt “responsible” even as an adult for holding your parents’ marriage together drives that point home. There is an article on enmeshed families at Power Up, Boundaries Part II you might find helpful. May the Lord heal you and your sister, both.

  5. Dya ever see National Geographic’s March of the Penguins? It is breathtaking, seeing what you describe.


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