Researchers Create Spy Penguin to Learn More About the Shy Birds

Emperor penguins are said to be notoriously shy, which in the past has created a bit of an obstacle to researchers trying to learn more about the penguin way of life. It is pretty difficult to collect information when the study subject runs away from you. So scientists and filmmakers from the University of Strasbourg in France have teamed up to create a spy penguin.

It’s a little remote controlled robot camera disguised as a penguin chick to avoid raising suspicion, Associated Press reported. The chick blends in with the penguins—who see it as a potential mate for their own chicks.

Researchers had to try several trial versions until they found a disguise that could pass in the penguin community. The first version—made from fiberglass—frightened the other birds away. After about five attempts, the researchers found success with a faux chick, covered in gray fur with little black arms and a face and beak painted to look like the real thing.

Yvon Le Maho, the lead researcher on the project said that the spy was greeted by penguins who sang to it with their distinct trumpeting sounds. Le Maho said that the next step will be to program the spy penguin with the capabilities to respond to the penguin songs.

The incognito penguin was able to  huddle in with the other chicks, while researchers observed from over 650 feet away.

Spy Penguin 2