Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Watch Live

Arts & Culture

Penguins: Spy In The Huddle, A NATURE Special Presentation

Rockhopper on nest with Eggcam in foreground, Falkland Islands.
Courtesy of Philip Dalton/©JDP
Rockhopper on nest with Eggcam in foreground, Falkland Islands.

Airs Sunday, July 10, 2016 from Noon - 3 p.m. on KPBS TV

The life of a penguin is not an easy one, but recording the challenges faced by nature’s most devoted parents and their offspring in remote parts of the world was nearly as hard, and only possible due to the placement of spycams in their midst.

For nearly a year, filmmakers deployed 50 animatronic cameras disguised as realistic life-size penguins, eggs and rocks to infiltrate the colonies of three very different species: emperor penguins in Antarctica, rockhopper penguins on the Falkland Islands, and Humboldt penguins in Peru’s Atacama Desert. The resulting footage shows what it is really like to be a penguin from a whole new perspective.

Take a front row seat as they journey to their breeding grounds, raise chicks, dodge predators and return to the sea in PENGUINS: SPY IN THE HUDDLE, A NATURE SPECIAL PRESENTATION.


Series director John Downer (EARTHFLIGHT) and his team filmed 1000 hours of intimate behavior for this project using both animatronic and conventional cameras, footage which was later condensed to three hours for broadcast. This series contains a number of notable firsts due to the sheer length of time the production crews spent observing the colonies as well as to the presence of the spycams.


Bright Penguin, Big City

Check out a short film that answers the question: “What would happen if one of the robotic penguins featured in PENGUINS: SPY IN THE HUDDLE found itself stranded in New York City?”

"The Journey" repeats Sunday, July 10 at Noon - Emperor penguins cross a treacherous frozen sea to reach their breeding grounds. Rockhoppers brave the world’s stormiest seas only to come ashore and face a daunting assault up a 300-foot cliff, hopping most of the way up. Tropical Humboldt penguins negotiate predatory sea lions and vampire bats to reach their desert nests. The hard work for all the penguins finally pays off when their tiny, vulnerable chicks begin to hatch.

"First Steps" repeats Sunday, July 10 at 1 p.m. - Watched by spycams, newborn emperor penguins in Antarctica are caught walking on their mothers’ feet and taking their own first unsteady steps. On the Falklands, rockhopper chicks meet their unruly and predatory neighbors, while “eggcams” provide unique views of the colony. In Peru, Humboldt chicks take on fur seals and take aim at gulls.

"Growing Up" repeats Sunday, July 10 at 2 p.m. - As their chicks become increasingly independent, emperor and rockhopper parents place them in a crèche and go fishing. Humboldt chicks are left in their burrows as the adults head for the beach.


As the young grow bigger and preen out baby fluff, they sport punk hairdos. Emperor chicks go skating while rockhopper chicks practice jumping skills. Eventually all the chicks leave for the sea, tackling the same hazards as their parents before them, from sea lions to predatory birds, high cliffs to glaciers.

NATURE is a production of THIRTEEN Productions LLC for WNET. For NATURE, Fred Kaufman is executive producer. PENGUINS: SPY IN THE HUDDLE, A NATURE SPECIAL PRESENTATION is produced by John Downer Productions for BBC.

This series originally aired in 2014.

Past episodes of NATURE are available for online viewing. NATURE is on Facebook, Tumblr and you can follow @PBSNature on Twitter.

Penguins: Spy in the Huddle - Part 1

"For nearly a year

Penguins: Spy in the Huddle - Part 2

"For nearly a year

Penguins: Spy in the Huddle - Part 3

"For nearly a year

Nature: Penguins Spy in the Huddle Preview