Teenage Penguins Are The Most Awkward Thing You'll See All Day

So emo 🖤

Jamie Hayes was on a trip around the sub-Antarctic islands with her family in 2018 when she came across the most emo thing she’d ever seen. Surrounded by natural beauty, a teenage penguin in an awkward stage of molting stood out like a sore thumb.

Molting king penguin chick in Antartica
Jamie Hayes

“The chicks don’t swim until after they molt, [and] this guy clearly got wetter than he’d planned to,” Hayes told The Dodo. “He just gave this very amusing, anthropomorphic vibe of a dude who had had a really bad day going home to maybe change clothes.”

“I could totally empathize,” Hayes added.

And the young penguin's parent didn't seem too happy about it, either.

Awkward molting penguin chick
Jamie Hayes

Before this trip, Hayes had never seen a penguin like that before. But, suddenly, they were everywhere she went.

“One colony we went to had something like 100,000 king penguins,” Hayes said. “The chicks were in various stages of molting their ‘woolly’ feathers. Some still had all of their baby fluff, like this guy, and some had pretty comical patches that look like chest wigs … some even had weird mohawks.”

A king penguin in an awkward stage of molting

Unfortunately for penguins, the process of shedding their baby fluff can be embarrassingly similar to human puberty. The king penguin is the second-largest penguin in the world and is “characterized by its dignified, upright posture, long bill, and vivid coloration,” according to Britannica — something this teen penguin was still working on.

Penguin chicks are covered by thick, brown feathers until they start to molt at 10 to 12 months old. Their baby feathers are eventually replaced by sleek, black feathers on their backs, white feathers on their chests and orange feathers on their ears and throats. These waterproof adult feathers, and the blubber underneath, helps to keep them warm in the freezing ocean waters.

Shutterstock/robert mcgillivray

While Hayes and her family saw some spectacular wildlife on their trip, years later, the grumpy young penguin is still one of the highlights.