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Penguins migrate for all kinds of reasons.

They go to molt, to breed, to find food, to go to work ...

tawaki penguin migration


(Only kidding about that last part. We just wanted to use that cute gif.)

New research just revealed that one species of penguin travels unreasonably far for a bite to eat, and scientists are blown away by their findings.

According to research published in PLOS ONE, the New Zealand tawaki penguins aren't afraid to go the distance for a meal.

Researchers attached 17 tracking devices to the penguins to monitor their post-breeding trek to feed. While only five devices stayed attached to track the whole journey, the data those devices provided is pretty mind-blowing.

The penguins traveled for up to 69 days and moved 2,100 to 4,200 miles.

That's 12 to 50 miles per day. Considering they're one of the smallest types of penguins, according to Radio New Zealand, that's quite a hefty voyage.

In comparison, the emperor penguin migration to breed is only 60 to 100 miles, according to the Independent.

The strangest part of these findings isn't just how far the tawaki travel; it's also that their lengthy journey is totally unnecessary.

New Zealand's Newsie outlet also reported on the research, where study author Thomas Mattern explained how puzzled he was about the penguins' behavior. "There should be more than enough food for them just on their doorstep," Mattern said, noting that the nearby waters are at their peak for feeding during this migration.

Why go over 4,000 miles to find what's right in front of them? Especially when you take into consideration that, following the long trip, their three-week feather molting period keeps them on land and unable to feed.

Mattern said that the birds should be trying to conserve energy to prepare to molt, not taking random journeys thousands of miles out of the way.

The research team came to the conclusion that this behavior must therefore be ingrained in them ancestrally. Science Daily reported that the study's authors believe this was something their predecessors had to do when they lived more down south in the sub-Antarctic and had to travel for food. Now that they're in New Zealand, the penguins don't need to do it.

It's too far ingrained for them to unlearn it, it seems.


But even though it's a bit taxing and pointless, the long trip seems to be working for the penguins thus far.

And, hey, if there's ever a bird olympics, we know who will take home the gold.

tawaki penguin migration

Giphy/Real Journeys

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