♪♪ ♪♪ NARRATOR: The emperor penguin is the biggest and the most iconic of a remarkable family.
One family... 18 different faces.
♪♪ Making use of extraordinary adaptations and innovative abilities... they've conquered some of the most extreme places on Earth.
♪♪ And, for the first time... you and I... are going to meet every member of this incredible penguin family.
♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ NARRATOR: The forests of New Zealand.
Not the first place you'd expect to see a penguin.
♪♪ But here, amongst the trees... ...lives the Snares penguin.
♪♪ They almost seem out of place, but in fact, it was here that penguins first evolved more than 60 million years ago.
And there are now more species of penguins in New Zealand than in any other country on Earth.
60,000 of these penguins have made the Snares Islands their home.
It's a maze of twists and turns.
♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ But this well-trodden path leads them to a secret hideaway.
[ Chirping ] ♪♪ This is just one of the many forest clearings where the penguins come to nest.
With no native land predators, New Zealand has always offered these flightless seabirds a sanctuary, a safe haven for rearing their young.
♪♪ But there is one big disadvantage to forest living.
Thousands of tiny, webbed feet turn the damp ground into a veritable quagmire.
This doesn't just result in a grubby appearance.
It could threaten their lives.
A penguin's feathers are crucial for waterproofing and insulation out at sea.
If they're clogged with mud, penguins can't regulate their body temperature and could die from the cold.
But the Snares have found a solution.
♪♪ It's time for a trip to the penguin baths.
♪♪ After a thorough rinse, the penguins spread a very special wax through their feathers.
Produced in a gland at the base of the tail, it creates a waterproof barrier that insulates and streamlines.
The wax is also antimicrobial, deterring unwanted germs.
For some penguins, this process can take up to 3 hours a day.
♪♪ But it's a price worth paying for their forest sanctuary.
Penguins can be found in unexpected places.
And perhaps nowhere is more surprising than this one.
Here, penguins have found a way to survive the usual sweltering heat of the equator.
They're one of the smallest members of the family.
Standing at just 19 inches... the Galapagos penguins.
♪♪ These remote volcanic islands may seem harsh and unforgiving but the inlets and coves offer a haven, and not just for penguins.
♪♪ With few land predators... [ Honking ] ...the rocky shores provide ample nesting sites and shelter from the sun.
♪♪ Lava tubes crisscross the islands.
It's the perfect place to escape the midday heat... [ Chirping ] ...and raise young.
[ Honking ] There are other advantages, too.
Even though these islands are located on the equator, the water is much colder than you'd expect.
And it's all because of the Humboldt Current.
♪♪ Traveling from over 5,000 miles away in Antarctica, it delivers cold penguin-friendly water to these volcanic islands... ...as well as food in abundance.
♪♪ It's thought that the Humboldt Current carried the penguins here around 4 million years ago.
♪♪ They certainly didn't fly here.
Penguins are believed to have lost that ability 60 million years ago.
Swimming is what penguins do best.
♪♪ Sheltered islands, cool waters, and a rich stream of food allows the Galapagos penguin to live farther north than any other.
♪♪ ♪♪ It might seem like an unusual home for them, but penguins are excellent at pushing boundaries.
Cape Town, South Africa, is home to 4.6 million people.
♪♪ And 3,000 penguins.
This is the African penguin.
When they've had enough of posing for the cameras... WOMAN: Aah!
NARRATOR: They head for an unexpected retreat.
[ Horn honks ] This female has secured herself a perfect nesting spot in a residential garden.
The road outside can get noisy, but she doesn't seem to mind.
The traffic keeps predators at bay.
She's hungry, but she must wait for her mate to return or risk losing the nest to another penguin.
And he's just started his journey home.
[ Honking ] We might be more used to seeing penguins hopping up rocks... ...but steps can be much more convenient.
♪♪ It's rush hour in the city, and to get back to the nest, he joins the rest of Cape Town's commuters.
[ Horn honks ] Traveling with a group keeps him safer on the busy roads and pathways.
[ Horns honking ] ♪♪ ♪♪ The hectic traffic separates the pack.
♪♪ [ Squawking ] A recent study has revealed that African penguins have a complex vocal repertoire similar to that of humans, and the group can recognize individual calls.
But it's hard to be heard over the noise of rush hour traffic.
[ Horn honks ] He needs to wait it out.
His mate will have to be patient.
He's going to be late again.
♪♪ Time to make a move.
♪♪ ♪♪ He needs to keep his eyes open for distracted drivers.
[ Tires squeal, horn honks ] But he's almost home.
♪♪ [ Dog barking ] ♪♪ African penguins have changed their behaviors to adapt to the modern world.
This pair have chosen a backstreet garden as a suitable nesting site.
♪♪ [ Calling ] And finding a safe place to raise young is a top priority for all penguins.
But one species has gone to even greater lengths.
[ Honking and squawking ] ♪♪ ♪♪ These are Adélies.
And this is the longest penguin migration on Earth.
Adélies don't lay their eggs on ice.
They must continually monitor the expanding and contracting ice edge, traveling 8,000 miles a year to stay close to an area of Antarctica with bare rock.
99% of them return to the same nests each year.
But after a harsh winter, the entire breeding ground is in need of renovation.
And time is of the essence.
The males have just days before their partners return.
No other penguin in the family puts as much effort into building its nest.
And this conscientious male takes his time selecting the perfect pebbles.
Finding stones that are just right isn't easy.
So some sneaky individuals have found a shortcut.
♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ This poor male seems unaware that his hard work is being undermined.
♪♪ ♪♪ The thief's nest, however, is coming along very nicely.
He clearly knows to keep a sharp lookout for raiders.
♪♪ [ Squawks ] ♪♪ A few days later, the penguins have finished their renovations.
[ Calling ] And with the females arriving, it's just in the nick of time.
These couples haven't seen each other for nine months.
♪♪ ♪♪ And whether through hard work or thievery, the newly renovated nests seem to have impressed.
♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ Penguins are certainly imaginative nest builders.
They're also devoted parents.
And no penguins demonstrate this better than the rockhoppers.
♪♪ ♪♪ [ Warbling ] This male stands guard over his newly hatched and hungry chick.
He has nothing left to feed him.
And if mom doesn't get back soon, the chick will starve.
♪♪ ♪♪ She's been out fishing for several days and is on her way back, but there's a huge challenge ahead.
The rough sea crashing on this jagged coastline is treacherous.
And a huge male sea lion, 100 times her size, is on the hunt for food.
In such immense waves, strong chest and back muscles help her to withstand the impact.
Each step is hard won.
And worse is to come.
♪♪ Any loss will have dire consequences for a family.
♪♪ ♪♪ Mom and the others battle on.
♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ She's almost there.
♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ [ Grumbles ] Safely back on solid ground.
And now she does what all rockhoppers do best.
She hops all the way back home.
♪♪ She makes it look easy.
The youngsters... will get there eventually.
♪♪ ♪♪ After an arduous climb for over a mile, and out of reach of even the most tenacious sea lion, she makes it home.
♪♪ And at last, her chick gets a meal.
Over the next two months, these devoted parents pull out all the stops to ensure their youngster's survival.
With dad starving himself to protect the chick... ...and mom risking the waves and the sea lions... ...again and again.
Penguins are incredibly dedicated parents, going to extraordinary lengths to protect their chicks.
♪♪ But penguin chicks aren't always as helpless as they seem.
Antarctica is the coldest and windiest continent on Earth.
♪♪ The largest member of the penguin family chooses to breed here regardless.
♪♪ Emperor chicks are the only offspring to be born in the Antarctic winter.
To survive here, they have to be tough.
♪♪ [ Chirping ] ♪♪ Special brooding pouches have provided months of shelter from the bitter winds.
♪♪ The chicks may look vulnerable, but they have special adaptations of their own to stay warm.
Feathery ankles keep out the biting cold and the fat-rich food they're fed allows them to build up a thick layer of blubber.
Some chicks... are fatter than others.
Blubber is vital for keeping warm, but thinner chicks have an incredible adaptation that helps to keep them alive.
Scientists have discovered that the cells of the chicks who eat less actually work more efficiently, helping them to conserve more heat even on the coldest days.
So chubby or not, these remarkable chicks are built to survive here.
♪♪ [ Penguins squawking ] Emperor and king penguins are the only birds on Earth to incubate the egg on their feet.
But once hatched, they can't stay there forever, and today, this chick must venture out onto the freezing ice alone.
♪♪ With a little encouragement from dad... ...he takes his first steps onto the snow.
♪♪ His feet are perfectly adapted to the terrain, with special fats to keep them from freezing and strong claws to grip the ice.
Dad keeps a close eye, but these first solo explorations are so important for this chick's eventual independence.
♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ Being able to make new friends will be crucial to a successful life in the colony.
♪♪ ♪♪ But it can be dangerous to stray too far from dad.
♪♪ ♪♪ [ Squawking ] So strong is the parental urge to raise a chick that these adults, who have lost their chicks in the bitter storms, try to kidnap others.
Desperation can turn to violence.
♪♪ ♪♪ This chick has had a lucky escape.
[ Wind whistling ] ♪♪ ♪♪ The volatile Antarctic weather can change in an instant.
♪♪ Despite its cold weather adaptations, this chick isn't quite ready for complete independence.
Without its insulating adult feathers and the warmth of its parents, it will perish.
♪♪ The chick's call is as unique as a fingerprint.
[ Chirping ] ♪♪ Even from a distance, through howling winds, dad recognizes it.
♪♪ [ Chirping ] ♪♪ ♪♪ That's enough excitement for one day.
♪♪ [ Wind whistling ] Penguins are especially successful because of their ability to live in a colony... ...creating some of the largest bird gatherings on Earth.
♪♪ ♪♪ Over a million royal penguins gather on the Pacific Ocean's Macquarie Island.
Having spent months out in the open ocean, the cramped conditions can be challenging at first.
[ Squawking ] But there is safety in numbers.
In Peru, the Humboldt penguin teams up with other sea birds, like cormorants, to form huge mixed colonies.
♪♪ And across the Antarctic region, 24 million macaronis live in close-knit colonies.
Macaronis are the most numerous of any penguin species.
They gather chicks together into crèches to keep them safe.
Such dedicated parenting has enabled penguins to thrive in large numbers.
And their unique biology has seen them conquer the Southern Ocean and beyond.
♪♪ This is the fastest penguin on the planet... ...the gentoo.
♪♪ Here in the Falkland Islands, lobster krill occur in swarms.
For the gentoo, it's a favorite feast.
Reaching speeds of 22 miles an hour, diving as deep as 650 feet, and holding their breath for up to seven minutes, they've evolved to become supreme aquatic athletes.
♪♪ Bellies full, they head for shore.
And now their skills are really put to the test.
A southern sea lion.
♪♪ ♪♪ The penguins' streamlined bodies allow them to shoot out of the water, a trick known as porpoising, thought to confuse predators.
Short feet act like rudders, catapulting them into the air.
And fused muscular flippers allow them to make sharp turns.
♪♪ Sea lions are extremely adept in the water, but they can't quite compete with the gentoo's agility.
♪♪ On land, however, the penguins' advantage is lost.
♪♪ ♪♪ The gentoo's only chance is to get back to the sea.
♪♪ ♪♪ [ Squawks, honks ] ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ [ Squawking ] ♪♪ He's made it.
The Fjordland penguin uses its streamlined body for another purpose -- to zip up the narrow streams and rivers of New Zealand, a perfect shortcut to safe nesting grounds deep in the forest.
Penguins are supremely adapted to an aquatic life, spending 75% of their lives in the water.
But all penguins have to walk on land at some point.
And to get around, they've developed a remarkable technique.
♪♪ This is the chinstrap penguin.
It makes its home on some of the most hostile islands of the Southern Ocean.
Active volcanos here warm the ground, melting the snow early in the year.
Trouble is, the best spots are far from the sea.
To get there means a very long walk.
♪♪ The tough hike is made easier by the infamous penguin waddle.
This unusual style of locomotion may look inefficient, but surprisingly, it works in their favor.
Like a pendulum, the side-to-side motion stores energy at the end of each movement, energy that can be used in the next step.
We humans get 65% of the energy back with each step, but penguins can get up to 80%.
So the waddle is more efficient than our own walk.
Which means they can walk farther, for longer.
And when it comes to a cliff face covered in slippery volcanic ash... ...the penguin's strong feet and hooked beak pull and push it upwards.
A bird built for life at sea has mastered the land.
Now all this dad has to do is find his family... amongst a million others.
Another secret to the penguins' success is its feathers.
But only if they're kept in perfect condition.
♪♪ A yearly process of regeneration is crucial, and king penguins take this very seriously indeed.
♪♪ Months of battering by the Southern Ocean have taken their toll on the kings' feathers.
And now, in South Georgia, thousands are coming ashore for an essential makeover.
[ Grunting ] But first they have to get past this pile of blubber.
♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ [ Grunting, trumpeting ] ♪♪ ♪♪ The colony at last.
The great transformation can begin.
Starting with a really good scratch.
♪♪ Small, stiff feathers tightly packed over soft down have given this penguin a blanket of insulation.
But he must now shed all four layers, a process known as the catastrophic molt.
♪♪ Shedding thousands of feathers is a tedious process, but every penguin must do it once a year.
♪♪ The longer it takes, the longer he'll have to go without food, a true trial of endurance.
♪♪ ♪♪ But after a long month, he is the image of perfection.
Like a new winter coat, his feathers are restored.
♪♪ And he doesn't waste any time testing it out.
♪♪ A long awaited meal is in store.
♪♪ ♪♪ Over millions of years, penguins have evolved to master life on land and at sea, to become superb parents and to conquer forests, deserts, and even cities.
But we humans are changing the planet faster than ever before, and some penguins are struggling to keep up.
♪♪ The smallest penguin in the world, the aptly named little penguin, has lived on Australia's beaches for 2.4 million years.
But in the last 200 years, with the introduction of cats and foxes, they're now at risk of extinction.
On New Zealand's South Island, yellow-eyed penguins used to be hunted for food.
More recently, habitat loss and alien predators have decimated their numbers, leaving just 2,000 pairs.
On the east coast of Patagonia lives another colony of penguins in serious decline.
♪♪ The Magellanic penguin makes its home in the scorching desert.
♪♪ Every few years, this colony suffers a dramatic loss of chicks.
As many as 60% will die in one season, and no one knows why.
♪♪ Now a group of scientists from Swansea University are on a mission to find out.
♪♪ They believe the problem may lie in what they're eating out at sea.
But how do you keep up with fast-swimming deep-diving penguins out there?
The answer is cameras.
♪♪ Streamlined and super light, they're carefully attached, and in a matter of minutes, the parents are returned to their chicks, entirely unfazed by their mini backpacks.
♪♪ ♪♪ Penguins spend the majority of their time at sea, but it's the part of their lives we know the least about.
so this technology is groundbreaking.
♪♪ The cameras show the Magellanics traveling as far as 200 miles and diving up to 400 times on each fishing trip.
And when the penguin finally finds food, it does something astonishing.
It chooses to ignore it.
Time and time again, it swims past shrimp, squid, and lobster krill, all viable penguin food.
It seems to be searching for something else.
Anchovies, rich in oil, a penguin superfood.
♪♪ They are the most nutritious prey Magellanics can feed their chicks, and this footage proves that the penguins actively seek them out.
♪♪ But anchovies are heavily fished for human consumption.
♪♪ And now scientists believe that overfishing is the main cause of chick mortality.
Without access to the most nutritious food, the chicks are just not surviving.
[ Chirping ] With this vital information, scientists can now influence policymakers to set sustainable fishing quotas and help to secure the Magellanics' future.
♪♪ [ Wind whistling ] Of all the penguin species, the least known is the erect-crested penguin.
It lives so remotely in the South Pacific that few people have ever seen it, let alone studied it.
So, if the species is in decline, we might not know until it's too late.
And the 18th and final penguin in the family could disappear before anyone has had a chance to save it.
Even the iconic emperor penguin is in trouble.
Up to 20% of them could disappear in the next century as a result of receding sea ice.
But it's not all bad news.
Technology is giving us new insights.
The very fact that emperors live so remotely has historically made them incredibly hard to monitor.
Over 400 miles above us, satellites continually capture images of the Earth... ♪♪ ...images so detailed that scientists are making some startling discoveries.
From space, Antarctica is a great expanse of white.
Except for these strange brown patches dotted across the ice.
Brown patches... of penguin droppings.
Emperor colonies, 10,000 birds strong, leave a mess behind them.
♪♪ As the ground beneath them gets dirtier, they migrate across the ice to fresh, clean snow.
And as they, do they leave a trail behind them.
♪♪ From space, a penguin colony would be difficult to spot... ...but the marks they leave behind stand out.
So without even stepping foot on Antarctica, scientists are discovering new populations of emperor penguins, and they can even determine the size of the colony from the dimensions of these trails.
37 new colonies have been found in this way, more than doubling the known global population of the species.
With each new colony discovered, there is hope.
♪♪ From the forests of their ancestral home in New Zealand to the equator and back, the penguin family story is one of resilience and adaptation.
It's easy to see why they're one of the most beloved animal families on Earth.
♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ To learn more about what you've seen on this "Nature" program, visit pbs.org.