Do Penguins Mate For Life? Are They Monogamous?

Penguins are interesting creatures. They live so far on the equator that they are always a curiosity for people. One such question that bugs people is whether these amazing creatures mate for life or they find a new partner every year.

The answer is penguins are faithful creatures and mate for life. They don’t live like a family, but they find each other every year and mate every year with the same partner. 

Penguins Mating For Life:

At What Age Do Penguins Start Mating?

The mating age depends on the breed of the penguin. Body size plays a crucial role here.

The smaller the penguin, the sooner it reaches sexual maturity. The little blue penguin reaches sexual maturity when it is three years old, but on the other hand, the king penguin starts mating when it is five to eight years old.

What Is The Male Penguin Called?

Penguins are birds and thus, their male and female names are no different than other birds.

Male penguins are called cocks. Though they look nothing like cocks, they are called so.

What Is The Female Penguin Called? 

The female penguins are called hens.

How Often Do Penguins Reproduce?

Reproduction in penguins differs among species. They have an annual mating season.

The smaller penguins nest throughout the year. The size of the penguins also matters here. Most of the species reproduce annually from spring to summer, from May to August.

King penguin reproduces less often than other species. Its breeding season lasts for more than a year and thus, they reproduce every alternate year.

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How Often Do Penguins Mate?

Penguins mate once with one mate every year or every mating season.

Females tend to have more than one partner every year and males also have more than one partner, but they find their mate every year.

They are monogamous birds and will try to find their old mate every breeding season. In case of their death, disappearance, or delay in returning to the colony, they find another mate.

Penguin Mating Ritual

Different breeds have different mating rituals. They include both visual and audio rituals.

Penguins try different ways to attract each other. The responsibility of finding the nests lie with the male.

There is also a famous story that penguins find a beautiful pebble to attract their mate and if the female accepts it, the two pair up.

Learn here the different mating rituals of penguins. These rituals are breed-specific. 

How Do Male Penguins Attract Their Mates?

Only Adelie penguins do the pebble proposal. They choose the most smooth-looking pebble and gift it to the female as a gesture of love and if the female accepts it, then the deal is sealed.

Sometimes, these penguins also steal other penguins’ pebbles and gift them as their own.

Audio Displays:

Penguins sing a song for their mates. They bow down their heads, stretch their wings, and make trumpeting sounds. They find a nest and bow for females to attract them. 

UV Display:

King penguins are the only ones who use the UV light display to attract their potential mates. They reflect UV light from their bills and wings.

The UV light invisible to the human eye is used by many birds to attract their mates.

King penguins use it as a way to attract their mates. They come face to face and show off their bills to females. But this is only possible with adult males. The bills of juvenile penguins do not reflect any UV light.

How Do Female Penguins Choose Their Mates?

It is a female’s choice to choose a mate from the potential suitors. The audio and visual display by the males is the deciding factor. It can be said that females have the option to choose the most suitable from the bunch of males. 

Mating Rituals After Finding Mates:

Once paired, penguins display different mating rituals which strengthen their bond.

Penguins perform the ecstatic ritual where they stand facing each other with their wings outstretched and dip their head and then stretch their head and neck upward repeatedly, flap their flippers, and roll their heads sideways.

Emperor penguins do something distinct after pairing up and this display can be seen often during the entire breeding season, where the birds stand facing each other, their heads bowed down, and they bray together. 

Bowing is another ritual that is often performed by penguins where they bow before their mate and call in a low tone. It is often referred to as the gesture to lower aggression.

Crested penguins quiver their bills towards each other.  

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Why Do Penguins Exchange Pebbles?

Penguins do not exchange pebbles. The male penguin gives the most beautiful stone to the female penguin as a proposal to mate. The acceptance of the pebble indicates acceptance of the proposal. 

Do Penguins Only Have One Mate?

Penguins usually have one mate with whom they raise their kids. In the first breeding season, the male penguins use all kinds of displays to attract females.

Once the partner is chosen, the penguins mate and stay together during the entire breeding season.

Some penguin breeds reproduce every year while the larger ones, such as King Penguin reproduce every alternate year as their mating season lasts for 14-18 months.

Females usually choose their partner from the previous breeding season as the mate. Males also try to search for their previous mates. Only if the partner fails to come back to the colony, do the penguins try to attract other mates.

How Penguins Mate For Life?

Penguins are often used as an example of loyalty as they remain faithful to their partner until its unavoidable.

Emperor penguins, gentoo penguins, African penguins, Royal penguins, etc. are some of the breeds which are seriously monogamous and wait for their partner. But they also don’t wait their entire life.

Yes, they will only have one mate for a mating season, but if their partner dies, disappears, or fails to come back the next season, they will find another one. 

Do All Penguins Mate For Life?

No. Usually, they are considered monogamous, and they are but when the need for breeding and reproducing successors arises, even penguins can switch their pairs.

It was revealed by a team of researchers who were documenting penguins and conducted paternity tests and found that the large Gentoo penguin was the father of the offspring of another couple.

It was not a shock. The need for reproduction takes a toll on their loyalty. 

Where Do Penguins Breed?

Penguins are facing serious threats from climate change. Though they are trying to adapt, it is really difficult. breeding in a safe area is getting more difficult day by day. 

For example, emperor penguins breed in sea ice in extremely cold conditions.

Once the egg is laid, the female goes back to the sea to feed, while the responsibility of keeping the egg arm lies on the male. It keeps the egg on its feet and covers it with its skin fold to keep it protected and warm. 

Are Penguins Only Animals That Mate For Life?

No, penguins are not the only animals to mate for life. Here is a list of other birds and animals who are loyal.

Macaroni Penguins:

These penguins are known for their happy dance when they see their partner. 90 percent of the time, these penguins mate with their previous partner.

Sandhill Crane:

These cranes use their voice to display their love and affection. The female calls twice and the male answers with a single squawk to its partner and remains with them for as long as the other one is alive.

Gray Wolf:

The alpha wolf only mates with his mate and remains faithful. 

Shingleback Skink:

It is an Australian lizard that is known for its monogamous mating. The male licks and loves the female to attract it and chooses it every breeding season, making their bond last for several years.


It is a monkey that often displays human-like behavior. They mate for life, but their relationship also witnesses ups and down, including cheating and breakups, but they remain close for the sake of their children.


These are the rare animals where the females fight for a potential male. The males dance around several females to woo the one and when the female wants the male she fights the other females and professes her love.

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How Do Penguins Build Nests?

You might scrunch your nose, but penguins use their poop, called guano, to build nests.

Yes, the guano is penguin poop which they use to create a burrow that keeps their babies safe.

Penguins use their claws and make pits, and then poop on them, making a cavity in the ground. Both the male and female stick around to keep the eggs safe.

The guano is also collected by humans as it is a good fertilizer, due to the heavy presence of nitrogen in it, but this human intervention in the human territory is devastating for penguins.

Do Penguins Cheat On Their Partners?

Penguins do cheat their partners, but now out of choice, but a necessity. The necessity to reproduce compels them to choose another partner if their previous mate fails to return to the colony.


Penguins are monogamous birds and the stories of their interesting mating ritual are quite famous, but the pebble story is not the only one.

Now you know how penguins choose their mate and how they spend their life with their one and only or sometimes two partners. This is all about penguin mating.