How Do Penguins Mate? (Explained)

by Chukay Alex
Updated on

Reproduction is fundamental for every living creature, and the penguins are not excluded.

Although penguins cannot fly, they are still considered birds, which means that their mating habits would be quite similar to that of other birds, the difference being that they mostly lay an egg and they take care of the egg quite well until it hatches.

The female penguin gets a mate, and they pass through an important courtship ritual.

Then, the female penguin lie on the ground and the male penguin climbs on her back and walks backward until he reaches her tail where reproduction would take place.

In this article, you will discover more about the mating habits of these adorable flightless sea birds.

How Do Penguins Mate?

How Do Penguins Mate

There are over 18 species of penguins across the world and they have similarities in their mating habits.

To start with, a penguin would first need to find a mate, and they undergo an important courtship period together.

Penguins have orifices’, known as cloaca and it is used for metabolism and reproduction as well.

Their mating process usually don’t last up to 10 seconds.

Before copulation, either of the penguins would bow to its mate, with its bill pointed towards the ground and the mate imitiates.

The female lies on her stomach on the ground, and the male climbs unto her back. The male then, walks backwards until he get to her tail where reproduction takes place.

The female penguin lifts her tail to allow her cloaca and her mate’s touch, and sperm is transferred.

Related: Here is an article I wrote on can penguins quack

Do penguins really mate for life?

Most penguins are monogamous. Speaking of which, penguins monogamy comes in two forms: primary and serially.

Some penguins such as African, Gentoo, and Royal penguins are primarily monogamous, meaning they mate with one partner for life.

On the other hand, the Emperor penguins are serially monogamous, that is, they partner with one mate just for a season rather than for life.

So, you may ask if a penguin can really mate for life. To your question, yes!

“When a penguin finds its mate, they stay forever”. Both male and female penguins will mate with each other throughout the duration of their mating, and most times, they continue to mate with each other for life.

Another thing is that penguins understand the importance of division of labor so duties are shared.

Fun fact: A male penguin can search the whole habitat to find the perfect pebble for his mate and present it to her. If she loves the pebble, she keeps it and they become mates for life.

How do you know if a penguin is mating?

A penguin would have attained the maturity age in order to be ready to mate. This means the body size influences penguins ability to mate.

For penguins living in colonies, finding a mate is not really difficult because they are always in contact.

So, when the breeding season approaches, they come together and prepare towards it.

During the mating season, a young, and sexually matured penguin finds a suitable partner for himself but before then, he builds a nesting site first.

Apparently, the male penguins have the main task of attracting the female and to do this, he makes some loud vocals, and other mature males follows suit.

I would say, this makes a rather loud choir of penguins!

The courtship period often last for you to 2-3 weeks, and it is an important aspect during the mating season. Here are some noticeable behaviors in penguins during this season.

  • The male energetically moves his head while making sounds to warn other males to stay away from his mate.
  • Both male and female penguins mutually perform some movements to draw attention to themselves.
  • Then, a reverential behavior follows to reduce the tension, make them acquainted with themselves to reduce chances of aggression.

Tip: Penguins lay eggs which takes between 62 and 66 days to hatch.

The above behaviors characterize a mating penguin.

How do penguins attract their mate?

Penguins attract their mate by displaying some visual and auditory actions called the ecstatic display.

This display is also known as advertising and a male penguin often does it to let the female penguins know that has established a nesting site, and to warn other male penguins to stay away.

Males at the nesting site perform the ecstatic display and it can be done in a sitting or standing position.

The penguin may stretch his neck upward with outstretched flippers and make a vocalized sound, attracting a mate.

Some species however many swing their head instead and flap their wings, but would still make the sound.

Also check out this article I wrote on can male penguins lay egg?

How often do penguins mate a year?

Penguins are usually monogamous, which means after finding a suitable partner, these pair would mate exclusively with each other throughout their mating season.

Which season is mating season for penguins?

So you may wonder which season is the mating season for these sea birds. Right?

Most penguin species have an annual mating season between spring to summer. The Emperor penguins often have theirs from July to August.

What happens when a penguin’s mate dies?

Just like I earlier stated, most penguins are generally monogamous which means they stay with one partner for life. But what if that partner dies?

Penguins are social animals so they will mourn the loss of their mate and express grieve, by not eating for some time.

A penguin whose mate dies will also wait for some time before choosing another mate.

Yeah, it can be a hard choice but penguins always find their way and would bounce back on the feet to enjoy their new mate.

How long does it takes a penguin to make an egg?

Upon fertilization, it takes a penguin about 14 to 16 day to make an egg.

The female eventually lays a single egg which must be kept warm until it is hatched. An egg takes about 65 to 75 days to get hatched.

The egg is given to the male who keeps it safe and warm by putting it on his feet and covering it with a skin fold.

This process is important because the egg must be kept from touching the ground to prevent it from being frozen and unable to hatch.

During this period of, the male would not be able to go out. Then, the female would relieve the male off his incubating duty and take over.

They would do this subsequently and with uttermost care until little baby penguin comes out.

The male emperor penguin stays with the egg for close to 2 months.


So, the bottom point on the interesting and engaging issue on how penguins mate is clear.

Male penguins do not have penises, but both penguins have cloacas which functions for metabolism and reproduction.

First, the male prepares a nesting site before attracting a mate.

You have also learnt that penguins attract their mates by calling, that is, making different sounds that can only be distinguishable by their mates.

After copulation, the female would then, produce an egg within 14 to 16 days which would in turn, be incubated for 65 to 75 before it finally hatches.

Penguins are monogamous animals, and they mate with one partner throughout their life.

An excluding case can be when a partner dies and the other would have to make a replacement after some period of grieving.

What mating habit in penguins do you find interesting? What are your thoughts on how people mate?

Do share your opinions in the comment section below.

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About the author

Chukay Alex

Chukay is a season writer and farmer who enjoys farming and growing plants in his backyard farm. When he is not farming you can find him at the nearest lawn tennis court, hitting a mean backhand down the line.


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