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Birds arrive at the colony in March/April, and a single egg is laid in May/June. Males may arrive a few days before females. Females fast for about 40 days from arrival until the end of laying. Males incubate the egg on their feet for the entire incubation period of 62–67 days. Hence, from the time of arrival to the end of incubation, males must fast for about 115 days. Emperor penguins are colonial but not territorial, huddling together to withstand the cold and winds of the Antarctic winter. Chicks are guarded for about 45 days and fledge when about five months old.


Fish, cephalopods and krill are taken to varying degrees, though cephalopods and fish probably represent the major components of the diet, especially in terms of mass.