Do Penguins Mate For Life?

Do penguins mate for life? It’s something many of us have been led to believe throughout the years, but it turns out it might not always be the case. In fact, there are plenty of times that it seems penguins might look for someone else to cuddle up to each season.

Adélie penguins have wowed many with their relationships

If you’ve ever seen Adélie penguins, you might notice the males head to the breeding beaches before the females to tidy up the nests and prepare everything. The females then come tumbling in to find their partners after weeks of stocking up on food and to continue the perfect fairytale romance. While Adélie penguins are in it for the long run, it seems they are some of the only ones to do so.

They might be the exception to the mate for life rule
Source: She a Bird No 1

They might be the exception to the mate for life rule

While many people believe penguins mate for life, it turns out that penguin relationships are far more complicated than they seem on the surface. In fact, many species of penguins only mate with their partner for one season and will move on to someone new the following year. This is especially true for penguins who gather in huge numbers for each breeding season, with females often choosing the best of the best each year.

Penguins can get stuck in love triangles

The idea of a penguin love triangle might seem amusing to many, but it’s far from a laughing matter for two feuding females. If a female arrives and finds her man is nowhere to be seen, there’s a good chance she will find a new male and nest. The problem? When the original female arrives. It usually ends in an epic fight that typically sees the new female booted from the nest and off to find a new man.

Males could raise chicks that aren’t theirs
Source: Smithsonian Magazine

Males could raise chicks that aren’t theirs

If they’re not getting caught in tricky relationships, plenty of penguins make their way around the colony before they settle down with one man. While they might get close, that doesn’t mean the male is the biological father of the chicks. Studies in zoos and the wild have shown that males quite often raise chicks that aren’t theirs. Still, there’s no way of knowing the exact number.

Breeding season usually sees penguins become monogamous for a time

Don’t worry; there are no dramatic DNA tests in the penguin world. Both parents know that raising a chick takes a lot of work, and they need to work together if they stand a chance of the chick surviving. That means penguins typically become monogamous for the entire breeding season before going their separate ways once the chick has hatched and aged.

Do penguins mate for life? In short, it depends on the species. While some meet up with the same partner every year, others prefer to shop around each year for the best on the market. Whatever the case, most penguins tend to stick together to raise the chick – even if it’s not biologically theirs.