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Engagement

When a penguin finds a partner, who takes its duty serious to breed the eggs and raise the chicks and changes its breeding shift in time, he will be loyal to him/her for the rest of his/her life. And although divorcing is not rare, most of the time penguins will go back to their partner of the year before.
For those species who breed very synchronous (like adéliepenguins), it is not so hard to do. They come almost simultaneously back to the old nest.

For other species, like the African penguin who breed the whole summer, it could be harder. For returning to the old partner, they have to wait several weeks, which may lead to distressing situations.
Anecdote : Prof. Wilson was witness of the next story:
Couple humboldt penguins
"Jean-Claude (African penguin NR. 203029) and Maria (ring NR. T00210) raised in May 1980 two strong chicks and went to sea for a well-earned holiday. Begin September Jean-Claude came back and settled down, well-fed and expectantly, on the old nest. He waited an entire week(day and night) for his wife. After that week, he left the nest to eat. He was hardly 12 hours away, when Maria returned and she also waited a week on the nest. This scenario was repeated even five times, till Jean-Claude decided to stay away for a month (supposing that Maria was belated?). This time he was only two hours away, when Maria showed up. She again waited two weeks, and then she met an big, dark stranger. And it came as it had to be. When finally in December Jean-Claude and Maria saw each other again, Maria was, conscious of guilt, sitting on the common nest and breeding two eggs.
What has happened exactly, is unknown, but next day the three were gone and the eggs were gone too. The nest was destroyed and all the nest materials were dispersed..."


Most penguins stick together for life. The male returns first to the old nest and attracts the female. The shorter the breeding season (emperor and adélie penguins) the larger the chance they will return to the old partner. Looking for a new partner would only decrease their chance to raise a chick in time before winter, because searching a new partner asks for courting etc. and that would take time...

All the same, there are a lot of fights between penguins. Every year some penguins (widowers and widows, young penguins breeding for the first time, divorced penguins) are looking for a new partner. This causes a lot of fights. Then the opponent is kept by the neck and they strike each other with their flippers.

Couple humboldt penguins
Once a pair is formed, they start to strengthen their bond. They need to be capable to recognize and recover each other, even in a large colony, when they alternate on the nest.
Strengthening their bond can be done in several ways. They stretch their necks and call to learn recognizing each others voice. Some dance together: macaroni move their heads from left to right and back, rockhoppers move the heads up and down and shuffle, African penguins preen and hit each others bills. They preen each others feathers on places the partner hardly can reach, males deliver good nest materials to impress the females, etc. (see behaviour)

Depending on the species, eggs were led one to three weeks after mating.

Some females are very cunning. Among some species (especially noticed among adéliepenguins and yellow-eyed penguins), the females look for a partner who is very reliable for raising the chicks, but they copulate, on the way to and from the sea, with a stronger looking, more aggressive male. So they guarantee their chick has genes from a strong male, but at the same time they increase the chance that the chick will be fully grown up through the caring of a father with a strong and reliable sense of responsibility.

next chapter: Nest making
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