The biggest creche on earth

King Penguins

From the sky, it looks like a giant swirling frothy coffee.

Yet this scene shows an extraordinary community at work - thousands of king penguins instinctively herding their recently born young into giant huddles to stop them freezing to death.

Birds of a feather... Thousands of penguins form striking pattern in this picture taken 2,000ft above South Georgia

Parental instinct takes over in the inhospitable climate of the South Atlantic and the furry brown chicks are made to crowd together to retain their body warmth in the equivalent of bird creches - visible as brown swathes on our photo.

The picture was taken 2,000ft above the shoreline of South Georgia, a British territory close to the Falklands, by a helicopter crew from the Royal Navy's ice patrol ship HMS Endurance.

Crazy chicks: A closer view reveals newborn king penguins being corralled by their elders

Modern art? The contrast between young and old penguins looks like an abstract

Authorities impose the minimum flying height restrictions to protect more than 25,000 birds living in the colony.

Taking into account wind chill, the temperature was -15C on the island when the shot was taken in December.

It's no wonder the penguins are so careful with their young.

The chicks cannot regulate their body temperature and the parents care for them round the clock for the first three weeks.

They then put the chicks in one of the creches, returning every two or three days with food.

Chilly habitat: From even higher up, the landscape around the penguins becomes visible


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