Communication and Perception
Visually speaking, gentoo penguins see excellently underwater, although they are impaired when on land. Their retinas are very sensitive to the colors seen underwater such as green, blue, and purple. However this vision becomes impaired once they reach the surface of the water.
Gentoo penguins communicate with each other through a squawking vocalization. These calls typically are higher pitched and louder in males. Gentoos vocalize for a variety of reasons for example, when a male or female returns after feeding they will point their beaks straight up into the air and bellow out squawks to announce their return.
During incubation the parents take turns sitting on the eggs. When the other parent returns (mainly from feeding), a series of displays ensue. The arriving penguin does either a loud display in which he/she bellows out into the air or can do a bowing display in which the penguin bows down to the nest and gives a low hissing sound. Either of these displays communicates to the penguin on the egg that the returning penguin is ready to watch over the nest. The change-over of the nest between parents usually takes three minutes. Sometimes, the displays are reciprocated by the current incubator.
At times during the mating season, the male will rub the female's face and then the two of them will rub their bills together. Also, when one returns to the breeding ground with a stone to use for the nest, the other will bow repeatedly to accept the stone. These displays likely serve to strengthen the pair bond.
Gentoo penguins will also make sounds when another penguin is encroaching on its territory. Gentoos will make low hissing sounds if the interaction is not a high threat level. As a threat looms closer, gentoos will let out grunts.
Chicks communicate with their parents when they want food with high-pitched chirping sounds. In other situations, chicks make a modified whistle call until they reach their first molt where they develop the adult call. Chicks can distinguish their parents call apart from the calls of the thousands of other gentoos that may be nesting within the colony. Like all birds, gentoo penguins perceive their environments through visual, auditory, tactile, and chemical stimuli.
Communication Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic
Other Communication Modes: duets
- Müller-Schwarze, D., C. Müller-Schwarze. 1980. Display rate and speed of nest relief in antarctic Pygoscelid penguins. The Auk, 97/4: 825-831.