Alone in a crowd

King penguins breed on the outer islands of South Georgia. They need continual access to the ocean to collect food for their chicks. Throughout the winter, adults come and go from their traditional breeding colonies. There are two million king penguins in Antarctica and in one colony alone there are 600,000 of them. David Attenborough sits in the middle of the colony, surrounded by fluffy chicks who are keen to figure out what kind of animal he is. The chicks hatched last summer and are now coming to the end of their first winter. During that period their parents were out at sea looking for food for them and each chick was only fed about once every three weeks. Left to themselves for so long, the chicks have all gathered together in immense creches. The creche surrounding David contains about 50,000 chicks. Parents returning with food are able to find their chicks because parents and chicks recognise each other's voice. A returning adult may spend hours wandering through the crowd, searching for its chick, since the young are inclined to wander. The chick will respond to the parent's call and the parent will respond to the chick's whistle. When they meet, the adult leads it on a walk before feeding it, as though testing the bond between them. Finally, the chick sticks its beak in the adult's mouth and eats the regurgitated squid.

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