The gift to win a penguin’s heart

By Alex Potter

It’s the penguin equivalent of gifting a box of chocolates.

“On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me, the best pebble out there they could see.”

Finding the right gift at Christmas can be a panic-inducing experience. Will they like it? Do they already have one? Is this the right size and colour?

To avoid the gift-giving grudge this year, we recommend swapping out your friends and family for a colony of penguins! All they want for Christmas is you… to bring them pebbles!

Two Gentoo penguins
A rocky Antarctic beach offers many a pebble © DSD | Pexels
Article continues below

More on Nature

Birds in warmer climates have an abundance of twigs, leaves and even shiny blue things to fluff out their nests with. However, in the sparse, icy landscape of the Antarctic region, there are very little resources on hand (or on flipper) for penguins to use to build their nests. What the Antarctic environment can’t provide in shrubbery, it makes up for in hardy pebbles.

Gentoo penguins know a good pebble when they see one. Scooping them up in their beaks, they carry them to their partner; a gift that acknowledges the relationship between the two penguins and helps grow the nest for their budding family. Pebble nests are perfect in the wet, cold arctic as they allow snow and ice to melt though, keeping any eggs and new hatchlings dry and raised off the damp ground.

While the game of 'Selfish Santa' (where you can steal someone else’s gift if it looks more appealing to you) is acceptable behaviour in the human world; for Adélie penguins, stealing pebbles and nests is a common, but heavily frowned upon move. To build their nest faster, some penguin turn to a life of crime, waiting for their neighbours to leave before quickly stealing pebbles from their nest. It’s risky business - if they’re caught, their stealing ways will not be passed off as Christmas cheer, and will definitely end up in a squabble.

If the penguins are really lucky, they may stumble upon an abandoned, pre-built nest from a previous couple. Adding a couple of their own stones, they plump up the nest and give it their own homely touch. Who said hand-me-downs were not great gifts? Penguins love a passed down nest!

So if you’re looking for an easy-to-buy-for, grateful gift receiver this Christmas, make sure you add penguins and pebbles to your present list!

Featured image by Jean van der Meulen | Pexels