Why is the Penguin Molt So Catastrophic?

Did you know that, unlike many birds that molt a few feathers at a time, penguins lose all of their old feathers at once? This process is often referred to as a “catastrophic molt”. If you take a closer look at some of the pictures of penguins molting you’ll realize that the word “catastrophic” is more than appropriate.

Feathers are obviously very important for these beautiful animals, as they keep them warm and dry in cold water. Over time, their feathers would wear and they need to be replaced. The process of molting isn’t simple and it usually lasts for weeks.

Molting begins when penguin’s body starts making new feathers. At that time, penguins would devour the food in order to increase their body weight and prepare themselves for the next stage. Once the animal loses its feathers, it won’t be able to return to the water and eat until new feathers grow. That can take two or three weeks, and during that time penguins would live on land, fasting and waiting for the process to end.

It easy to recognize a penguin getting ready to molt – it looks much bigger and its food intake usually doubles or triples during this time.