Rockhopper Penguins Mate For Life, But Spend Months Apart

09/09/2015 4:24 PM AEST | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST
DEA / R. VALTERZA via Getty Images
FALKLAND ISLANDS - MARCH 03: Rockhopper penguin (Eudyptes chrysocome), Spheniscidae, Rockhopper Point, south coast of Sea Lion Island, Falkland or Malvinas Islands (British overseas territory). (Photo by DeAgostini/Getty Images)

If the Ashley Madison scandal has had you down and out about fidelity this past month -- look no further than the lovable penguin. A new study has found that these precious creatures mate for life but spend cold, harsh winters apart at-sea for up to six months (!).

The findings from the National Institute of Polar Research looked specifically at the rockhopper penguin and found through biochemical tracking techniques such as data-loggers (attached to the leg of the penguin, only weighing a few grams) that penguin partners migrate independently and can be located on average between 600 and 2500 kilometers apart during winter -- but reunite every breeding season -- better known as spring.

“At this time the male rockhopper penguin arrives first to the nest, followed by the female, about a week later,” Dr Jean-Baptiste Thiebot, the author of the study told The Huffington Post Australia.

It gets better. Once the couple arrive at their meeting spot they perform elaborate, prolonged courtship displays -- visual head and flipper movements and postures -- and vocal communication like calls and mutual trumpeting to find and recognise each other -- before collapsing in a complete bundle of mushy love.

rockhopper penguin

“Long-term field surveys have shown that the same penguins may use the same nest site or nesting area to breed every year, over and over again.”

“This probably helps the two partners to meet up ashore at a known place,” she said.

Finally, the study authors conclude that for the rockhopper penguin at least -- the rate of fidelity is very high and is expected to last a lifetime.

Bless these darling little love birds.

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