FAL162 Feathers £1.26 King Penguin Stamp
£1.26 King Penguin – Aptenodytes patagonicus
Penguins of course don’t need feathers suitable for flight, but rather for underwater and thermal efficiency. The structure of a penguin’s feathers are therefore quite different to those of a flying bird, and also because the penguin has no need to fly, it goes through what is known as a “catastrophic moult” at the end of each breeding season. At this time, the bird grows an entirely new set of feathers; the old ones are pushed out from below and are lost over a period of weeks, (during which time the bird fasts on land). The old feathers on a penguin at the end of the breeding season are noticeably duller and in poor condition – the new ones which will replace them will put the bird back into full condition and ready for a new season. The striking colours on the King penguin’s feathers are for attracting a mate – science has shown that subtle differences in the intensity of colour in a bird’s feathers can make it more or less attractive to a mate – a subtle difference that may not be visible to our own eyes. Waterproofness is of course also paramount in penguin plumage and like all sea and water birds, they have an oil gland at the base of their tail to use during preening.