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Scientific name: Aptenodytes forsteri

Emperor penguins lay only a single egg, which is incubated on their feet rather than in a nest. The Emperor penguin is a bird of extremes in just about every way. It is the biggest living penguin and breeds only in the Antarctic and only during the Antarctic winter.

Made famous by the documentary March of the Penguins, Emperor penguins, far from being the monogamous and virtuous penguins as portrayed in the film (and latched onto by the Christian Right as the models for family values), have the highest divorce rate (85% from one year to the next) of any penguin species.

Without a nest to act as a meeting point for reunification for pairs – as occurs in many other species of penguins – and with pressure to get breeding according to the tight timetable to which they must adhere if they are to rear a chick to fledging size in the time available, Emperor penguins cannot afford to spend too much time during the courtship looking for their previous partner. They adopt the Crosby Still and Nash approach to love as opposed to that espoused by the Church: “if you can’t be with the one you love, Honey, love the one you’re with”!