Larger penguins generally inhabit colder regions, while smaller penguins are generally found in temperate or even tropical climates.
Amazing Facts About the Penguin
- The number of existing penguin species is debated but thought to be between 17 and 20.
- Penguins are a group of aquatic birds and they have become highly adapted for life in the water.
- Their wings have become flippers meaning that they are flightless in the air but great swimmers and highly agile in water. Their swimming looks very similar to bird’s flight in the air.
- When under water a layer of air is preserved within the smooth plumage, ensuring buoyancy. The air layer also helps insulate the birds in cold waters.
- Diving penguins can often reach up to 12 km/h, though there are reports of speeds of 27 km/h. Larger penguins tend to dive deeper than smaller ones, with dives of the Emperor Penguin recorded reaching a depth of 565 m and lasting up to 22 minutes.
- Most penguins feed on animal sealife while swimming underwater. Their eyes are adapted for underwater vision, and are their primary means of locating prey and avoiding predators. An adult Gentoo penguin makes as many as 450 dives a day foraging for food.
- They generally spend about half of their lives on land and half in the oceans.
- Penguins either waddle on their feet or slide on their bellies across the snow, a movement called “tobogganing”, which conserves energy while moving quickly. They also jump with both feet together if they want to move more quickly or cross steep or rocky terrain.
- Penguins employ physiological adaptations and cooperative behaviors in order to deal with an incredibly harsh environment, where wind chills can reach -76°F (-60°C).
- They have a thick layer of insulating feathers that keeps them warm in water where heat loss is much greater than in air. Penguins are able to control blood flow to their extremities, reducing the amount of blood that gets cold, but still keeping the extremities from freezing.
- Penguins mostly breed in large colonies, ranging in size from as few as a 100 pairs for Gentoo Penguins, to several hundred thousand in the case of King, Macaroni and Chinstrap Penguins.
- Living in colonies results in a high level of social interaction between birds, which has led to a large repertoire of visual as well as vocal displays in all penguin species.
- They huddle together to escape wind and conserve warmth. Individuals take turns moving to the group’s protected and relatively warn interior. Once a penguin has warmed a bit it will move to the perimeter of the group so that others can enjoy protection from the icy elements.
- Penguins form monogamous pairs for a breeding season, though the rate the same pair re-couples varies drastically. Penguins are one of the most publicized species of animals that form lasting homosexual couples.
- Most penguins lay two eggs in a clutch, although the two largest species, the Emperor and the King Penguins, lay only one. With the exception of the Emperor Penguin, all penguins share the incubation duties.
- These incubation shifts can last days and even up to two months as one member of the pair feeds at sea. Depending on the extent of the ice pack, they may need to travel some 80 kilometers just to reach the open ocean. During a two-month bout of babysitting males Emperor penguins eat nothing and are at the mercy of the Antarctic elements.
- Penguin eggs are smaller than any other bird species when compared proportionally to the weight of the parent birds
- Parents and chicks use their sense of hearing to locate one another in crowded colonies. When mothers lose a chick, they sometimes attempt to “steal” another mother’s chick, usually unsuccessfully as other females in the vicinity assist the defending mother in keeping her chick.
- In some species, such as Emperor Penguins, young penguins assemble in large groups called crèches.
- They can drink salt water because a special supraorbital gland filters excess salt from the bloodstream. The salt is excreted in a concentrated fluid from the nasal passages.
- All penguins have distinctive counter-shaded plumage, with black backs and wings and white fronts. This marking, often likened to a tuxedo suit, is for camouflage – a predator such as an orca or a leopard seal looking up from below has difficulty distinguishing between a white penguin belly and the reflective water surface, whilst the dark plumage on their backs camouflages them from above.
- Most penguins have little fear of humans. This is probably because they have no land predators.
- Larger penguins generally inhabit colder regions, while smaller penguins are generally found in temperate or even tropical climates.
- Some prehistoric species attained enormous sizes, becoming as tall or as heavy as an adult human.
- The French explorer Beaulieu, on a voyage in 1620, believed penguins to be a type of feathered fish, due to their adaptations to life underwater.
- Penguins have been the subject of many books and films including the recent popular “March of the Penguins”, a documentary on the migration patterns of the Emperor Penguin.
Find more animals like this
- Type: Bird
- Size: Species rage from the Little Blue Penguin (Eudyptula minor), also known as the Fairy Penguin, which stands around 40 cm tall to the Emperor Penguin (Aptenodytes forsteri) which average about 1.15 m
- Weight: Range from 1 kg to 40 kg
- Lifespan in the wild: Up to 20 years
- Diet: Carnivores: Mostly krill, fish, squid, and other forms of sealife
- Habitat: Coastal waters and surrounding ice and land
- Range: Although all penguin species are native to the southern hemisphere, they are not found only in cold climates, such as Antarctica. Several species are found in the temperate zone, and one species, the Galápagos Penguin, lives near the equator
- Scientific name: Order Spheniscidae, family Spheniscidae