The Molt is On
Penguin chicks go through 2 full molts before they are adults. When the chicks hatch they are covered with a soft downy layer of feathers that give way to a thick wooly coat of feathers in about 10 days. By 20 days, the second molt begins with the growth of adult feathers which must be completed (about 55 days old) before the chicks can be on their own and swim. There are about 45 feathers in every square centimeter of a penguins skin including their wings, heads, legs and even around their eyes. Some of them are very small, but most of them are long with a thick downy section near the body and a stiff hard tip to protect the penguin from the cold wind and icy water. The chicks in these pictures are at various stages of molt, Starting from the left, the chicks ages are about, 20 30, 40, and 45 days old. The new feathers come through the shaft of the old feathers pushing them out so the chick is never unprotected.
For more about penguin feathers and pictures visit the Penguin Science adaptation page at http://www.penguinscience.com/education/adaptations_feathers.php
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Postcards from the Field: Adelie Penguins 2007