Penguins are one of the interesting birds. They dwell mostly around the cold Antarctic region. Although they may not look like the birds we see in everyday life, zoologists classify penguins as flightless seabirds. More specifically, in zoological terms, penguins belong to the Aves class of the Spheniscidae family. I know it is quite hard to digest these scientific words, therefore lets’ refresh our mind reading some of the fun facts about Penguins.
1. Penguins like to live in cold environments.
Therefore, they mostly dwell around the frozen lands of Antarctica. More specifically, the penguin species such as Emperor, Gentoo, Adelie, and Chinstrap are lovers of a cold environment. This means you need to freeze your back to see one alive in the real world.
2. Penguins can also be found in warmer islands.
A few types of penguins adapted living in warmer climates. National Geographic calls them island-dwellers. They can be found in the islands and shores of the Southern hemisphere. If you are curious about their locations, you can pinpoint their habitats on the map provided below.
3. Thanks to the thick layer of fat, oily feathers, Penguins survive on the harsh Antarctic climates.
It is amazing to see how these creatures survive in the environments where the temperature gets over -40 degrees Fahrenheit. Penguins defy most of the lifestyle perceptions. They thrive in the environment which is considered deadly to humans.
How do they do it? Well, they have a thick layer of fat, which insulates their body and stabilizes their body temperature. Plus, they have oily feathers, which serves as an extra layer of blanket.
4. Emperor penguins are the biggest species of penguins.
Their size can reach up to 45 inches (1.1 meters) and their total body weight is about 88 pounds (39.9 kgs). Female emperor penguins lay only one egg during the breeding season and it usually takes place during the harsh time of winter.
Once they lay eggs, males protect and warm it by keeping it on their feet. While males incubate the egg without eating any food, females go on a hunting trip. The trip lasts about two months. When the females return, they bring belly full of food for their new chick. However, a male penguin does not from that food despite all that labor. They just leave the breeding site searching for food for themselves.
5. Penguins huddle together to keep themselves warm.
Yes, friendship is important everywhere, even in the animal world. Being close to each other, penguins stay warmer. That behavior prevents them from freezing to death. Also, by huddling together, penguins create a type of shelter to preserve their heat.
6. Penguins have wings but they use them for swimming.
Unlike most other birds, penguins are flightless. They have two flippers, which resemble wings. But they use those flippers to swim in the oceans. Also, the flippers become handy to balance their bodies while penguins walk on the ground.
7. Penguins live more than half of their lives in the ocean and they can swim up to 15 miles an hour (24.1 km/h).
Penguins are expert swimmers. In addition to their high speed, they can leap out of the water if they need to swim faster. Penguins adapted swimming faster because they hunt most of their food inside the oceans. They hunt crabs, krill, and squid.
8. There are 18 species of penguins and most of them live in the Southern Hemisphere.
Those species are: King penguin, Emperor Penguin, Gentoo penguin, Adelie penguin, Chinstrap penguin, Southern Rockhopper penguin, Northern Rockhopper penguin, Fiordland penguin, Snares penguin, Erect-crested penguin, Macaroni penguin, Royal penguin, Yellow-eyed penguin, Little penguin, African penguin, Humboldt penguin, Magellanic penguin, and Galapagos penguin.
9. Some penguin colonies can include over a million individual penguins.
By staying in colonies, penguins stay warmer and protect themselves from predators. Penguins are considered the most social birds. Sometimes, they feed on as a group. Plus, being in a colony is a natural tendency for penguins. Thousands of baby penguins grow up at the same time in the presence of thousands of other penguins from day one, so solitary life is not an option for them.
10. When it is time to reproduce, they come to ashore to lay their eggs.
Penguins lay no more than 2 eggs. Female and male penguins take turns to warm their eggs until it completely hatches. Even after the eggs hatch, both male and female penguin shows about an equal effort to protect and feed their chicks.
Unlike other types of penguins, emperor penguin males incubate the eggs alone while females are absent for 2 months for a hunting trip.
11. Penguins incubate their eggs 32 to 68 days depending on the species of penguins.
Interestingly, the incubation period depends on the size of the penguin eggs. The larger the egg, the longer the incubation period. For example, emperor penguins sit on the eggs for more than 60 days since they are the largest species of penguins. And, they lay bigger eggs than others.
12. Penguin feathers are dense and waterproof.
Penguins’ oily and dense feathers are somethings that allow them to survive in the harsh conditions. There are over 70 feathers per square inch (2.5 square centimeters) on the penguin body. The dense feathers overlap each other and create a warm and waterproof coating for penguins.
13. Penguins are endangered species of seabirds.
More specifically, 11 out of 18 species of penguins are in the threat of extinction. They were recorded in the IUCN Red List as one of the most endangered species of seabirds.
Scientists explain that loss of habitat, widespread disease, climate change, and human activities are the primary contributing factors of decreasing penguin populations.
14. Penguins have oily feathers, which serves as an additional layer of insulations and helps them to swim faster.
Let get back to physics lesson briefly. Oil reduces friction. So, when penguins swim in the ocean, their oily feather allows them to glide smoothly through the water, which in turn, helps them to reach higher speed.
A question is where do the penguins get oil? Penguins have an oil gland that locates at the base of their tail. Penguins reach there using their beak and evenly spread that oil all over their bodies.
15. Most penguins shed their feathers only once a year and it usually happens after the breeding season.
You may wonder if penguins shed all of their feathers, how can they stay warm. That is logical reasoning, however, nature has own way of working. They shed all of their feathers when new feathers grow underneath them. In fact, new feathers push the old feathers out.
This process is called molting. The molting process lasts about two to five weeks, during which penguins stay out of the water, and relies on the excessive fat that they stored on their body.
16. Humans can infect and kill the penguins.
According to scientists, growing tourism to Antarctica threatens the penguin populations. Because people can bring viruses that can infect penguins. Unfortunately, penguins are susceptible to infectious diseases. And once they catch it, mostly they can’t recover from it.
17. When penguins huddle together to stay warm, the innermost penguins overheat.
Overheating in Antarctica sounds something unusual. But it usually happens to some penguins. As we mentioned, penguins huddle together during severely cold weather. However, the penguins that stay in the center of the huddle find themselves in a too toasty position. Therefore, they move from the center to the outer part to cool themselves off. As a result, the huddle constantly rotates.
18. Emperor penguins are superstars of Antarctica.
Many tourists make their way to Antarctica not only watch breathtakingly beautiful scenery but also to come closer to its interesting dwellers, emperor penguins. Since penguins do not afraid of people, it is possible to take a selfie with them. However, tourists can transmit infectious diseases to penguins, which may leave them in a risky condition.
19. Emperor penguins lay their eggs during the harsh winters and scientists are puzzled over it.
However, there is a logical explanation of why penguins lay eggs in the coldest cold time of the year. According to some scientists, penguins sacrifice their comfort for the comfort of their chicks. By the time egg hatch and baby penguins reach to independent age, the weather softens and becomes just right for chicks.
20. Galapagos penguin is the most endangered species of penguins.
Only 1,200 Galapagos penguins left on this planet. Another interesting thing about Galapagos penguins is that they are the only species of penguins that reached the Northern Hemisphere.
Various scientific reports suggest that Galapagos penguins are endangered because of climate change. A prolonged period of warm sea temperature deprives the penguins of the food they hunt.
21. The only the penguins’ eyes and beak remain above freezing temperature.
The surface of the rest of their body stays in below-freezing temperatures. However, it does not mean penguins’ internal temperature is freezing. Their internal organs operate at a warm temperature.
They keep the body surface in freezing temperatures to prevent the internal warmth from getting out. Concisely, through this process, penguins regulate their body temperature.
22. Female emperor penguins dive to 1,850 feet. (564 meters) and stay there for more than 20 minutes.
Especially, Emperor penguins are deep divers. They can dive deeper than any other birds can do. They must dive deeper to hunt their food such as fish, krill, and squid. Those creatures usually stay deeper in the sea because they can freeze to death if they come closer to the surface.
23. Penguins are loyal creatures, at least they are loyal to their mating partners.
When the mating season comes around, they find their mate from the previous year. It is quite amazing how they recognize each other given the fact most penguins look alike and each colony consists of thousands of penguins. They change their mates only when either one of them dies.
24. Despite their short legs, penguins can walk a long distance on the ground.
You may have heard the phrase “penguin walk”. When penguins walk, they make funny movements. Since their legs are short and the body is well-packed, they walk rocking their whole body. They walk upright standing on their two legs. However, they use their flippers to balance their bodies.
25. The penguins live somewhere between 6-30 years.
I know there is a huge gap between 6 and 30 years. The gap is there because some species of penguins live longer than others. For example, Magellanic penguins can live up to 30 years, while little blue penguins live only 6 years. You may learn about their lifespan here.
National Geographic; Pinguins.info; Patrickdepenguin; New Scientist;
BBC; Birdlife; Birdlife; Smithsonian; National Geographic; Britannica.