Baby Penguins Jump Off 50-Foot Cliff in First-of-Its-Kind Drone Footage

Emperor penguin chicks jumping off the ice shelf edge for their first swim at Atka Bay on the Ekström Ice Shelf in Antarctica.

Drone footage has captured the astonishing moment hundreds of emperor penguin chicks jump off a 50-foot cliff in Antarctica for the first time.

Wildlife photographer and filmmaker Bertie Gregory captured the “unprecedented” footage for National Geographic’s upcoming documentary Secrets of the Penguins, which will debut in April 2025.

The National Geographic filmmakers were shooting in Atka Bay on the Ekstrom Ice Shelf, Antarctica in January this year, when they spotted approximately 700 emperor penguin chicks gathering at the edge of a cliff.

penguin drone footage jumping cliff

penguin drone footage jumping cliff

Antarctica is home to 66 known Emperor penguin colonies, which usually breed and raise their chicks in the winter. Some of these emperor colonies have been raising chicks high up on permanent ice shelves.

penguin drone footage jumping cliff

Every January, when the chicks are around five months old, they undergo a process known as fledging. During this process, the chicks lose their baby feathers and leave their colony for the first time — jumping from an enormous cliff into the ocean to take their first swim.

A Heart-Stopping Jump Filmed For The First Time

While these huge jumps have been witnessed by scientists before, Gregory filmed this rare and heart-stopping behavior for the first time for television.

In the extraordinary footage filmed for Secrets of the Penguins, a colony of chicks is seen making their way along the edge of the huge ice cliff, moving together toward the edge before stopping.

Eventually, one brave chick takes the first leap from the summit and smashes into the icy ocean waters below.

Once this penguin swims off to fill its stomach with fish, prompting the others to follow suit. From there, hundreds of chicks are seen jumping off the cliff into the ocean.

According to scientists, this is the first-ever video footage of emperor penguin chicks leaping from such a high cliff. Scientists who monitor penguins from satellites in space say this phenomenon is extremely rare.

In a press release, the National Geographic revealed Gregory used a newly released camera drone, equipped with a telephoto lens, which allowed him to capture the animals’ behavior from the air like never before — without disrupting or impacting the penguins.

“Filming the fledging of emperor penguins presented a unique set of challenges as the passage only takes place when the sea ice reaches its most unstable time of the year,” National Geographic says in a statement.

“Bertie and his team took every measure to ensure the safety of the crew and wildlife by assembling a world-class safety team.”


Image credits: All photos by National Geographic/Bertie Gregory .