A young Emperor penguin took a rare wrong turn from the Antarctic and ended up stranded in New Zealand—the first time in 44 years the aquatic bird has been sighted there in the wild. The penguin is about 10 months old and stands about 32 inches high, experts say. It was likely born during the last Antarctic winter, and may have been searching for squid and krill when it took a wrong turn and landed about 2,000 miles from the Antarctic coast. Emperor penguins can spend months at a time in the ocean, coming ashore only to molt or rest. The penguin appeared healthy and well-fed, with plenty of body fat, and probably came ashore for a rest.
However, the penguin will need to find its way back south soon if it is to survive. Despite the onset of the New Zealand winter, the bird was probably hot and thirsty, and an expert says it had been eating wet sand. "It doesn't realize that the sand isn't going to melt inside it. They typically eat snow, because it's their only liquid." However, the bird is in no immediate danger from dehydration because Emperor penguins can also drink salt water in the summer; officials plan to let nature take its course. (Read more New Zealand stories.)