Group Baby emperor penguins a walk through the icy lands of Antarctica. They are inexperienced, still wrapped up in their own soft and warm blanket immature and apparently, like all penguins, unable to fly: an ideal target for a hungry predator. Large ossifragea seabird with a wingspan of over two meters equipped huge sharp beak, tries to take advantage of the opportunity and attacks them. The cubs form a group, but alone they can do little against a predator. Their fate therefore seems sealed, but out of nowhere he appears an unexpected savior who turns the tide.
All this happens in an extraordinary video shot by the BBC for the documentary Spy in the Snow (2018) which tells an unprecedented view of extreme life at the South Pole and shows us some rare interactions between prey and predators in one of the most difficult and inhospitable places on Earth.
The first protagonists featured in the video are young people emperor penguins (Aptenodytes forsteri), the only penguin that breeds on a frozen continent during the cold winter. And also the highest and heaviest among all existing penguins, reaching up to 45 kilograms and well one meter high.
This species breeds in large colonies and they produce pairs every year a single egg which is initially incubated by the male while the female goes into the water to regain energy and feed. About 45-50 days after hatching, the chicks are collected in some form “kindergarten”, they all huddle together to provide each other with warmth and protection from predators. In this period both parents are at sea and they return regularly to feed their chicks. This is the time when the little penguins they are more vulnerable on predators such as the leopard seal (Hydrurga leptonyx) or large seabirds.
He is also among them southern ossifraga (Macronectes giganteus), one of the largest storm surges in the world. These birds usually feed on fish, krill, squid, and carrion, but can transform when needed into reckless and aggressive predators little penguins and other sea birds. As can be seen in the video, the ossifraga tries its best to grab one of the chicks with its large beak, tryingisolate him from the rest of the group. In turn, the little ones gather around and do their best to ward off the hungry predator, which no doubt shows a lot of courage and ingenuity.
However, Ossifrage has on his side, and above all, great determination completely free field adults or other intruders. So it’s just a matter of time and sooner or later one of the chickens gives up. Suddenly, however an unexpected hero bursts into the scene, intervening between the predator and the little penguins. It’s an adult Adélie penguin (Pygoscelis adeliae), the most widespread species along the coast of the Antarctic continent. Although it is an adult, it is large with a maximum height of around 70 cm just over half baby emperor penguin.
But despite its size, the little Adélie penguin is quite famous bold and very aggressive personalityand is often not afraid to challenge other animals even much bigger than him. And although the young were not his, or even his own kind, the penguin didn’t think twice to load ossifrage and then interposed himself between the raptor and the young, until at last the great storm-petrel decided to do so retreat by giving up food. In defending the emperor penguin chicks, this unexpected little hero showed not only courage, but also the typical behavior that many birds display in such situations. mobbing.
Mobbing is anti-predator strategy typical, but not exclusive, of animals that usually live in groups. When a parent notices that a predator has gotten too close to its offspring, it starts broadcasting voice signals very specific and aggressive, which serve both to call others of their kind to arms and to confuse the “predator”, often to the point of physical attack. Instantly we find ourselves surrounded and confused no longer able to locate the eggs or hatchlings it sought, the unfortunate one gives up and often leaves.
However, he sometimes performs this aggressive behavior as well especially courageous individuals and often, as in this case, even when they are of other species. In some cases, aggressive mobbing is also done simply to repel a possible predator or simple intruder from its territory. They are masters at it crows and other corvidsa real nightmare even for large raptors such as hawks, buzzards and eagles that often fly in it literally hurts from these clever and noisy birds.