Penguins – those cuddly and cute birds! Did you know they can clock up to 15 miles an hour while swimming? Did you know you cannot differentiate between a male and a female penguin?
There are many such fascinating penguin facts that will leave your jaws dropped.
So, if you want some penguin facts to surprise yourself or someone else, why not go ahead and read these 90 facts about penguins?
Penguin Facts 1-10
1. Penguins belong to the flightless birds’ group. It is one of the 40 bird species which lack the ability of aviation. The other birds which are flightless are kiwis, ostriches, rheas, cassowaries etc. most of these types of flightless birds are found in the southern hemisphere.
2. Most of the scientists believe that there are 17 species of penguins, out of which 13 are endangered or threatened and some of these 13 are on the verge of extinction.
3. Penguins swallow small pebbles or rocks with their food. Biologists think that these stones help in digesting the food faster and even help these penguins become heavier for deep sea diving.
4. These penguins, though flightless, are birds and therefore have no teeth. However, they have spines on the roof of the beak on the inside and on the tongue to have a good grip of the prey.
5. Though penguins look uber cute and our hearts just melt at the sight of a penguin, you should know the fact that they are carnivorous and an adult penguin can catch around 30 fish in just one dive! They eat krills, crabs, shrimps etc.
6. Like cats, they spend a lot of time preening. They continuously preen their feathers to keep them waterproof and sometimes penguins spread oil onto their feathers. From where does this oil come from? A special gland which is present near the tail feathers.
7. Just how snakes shed their skin, the penguins, in the same way, shed their feathers or molt the feathers once in every year. It may take weeks for the new feathers to replace the old and during this they can’t enter the sea as they don’t have their waterproof feathers and due to this, they lose half of their body weight during those few weeks.
8. They can swim anywhere between 5-6 miles an hour but some penguins are reported to swim at speeds of 15 miles an hour. They can walk at a speed between 1.7 to 2.4 miles an hour.
9. The reason behind the penguins swimming so fast is attributed to something called a “bubble boost” by scientists. When the penguins fluff tiny plumages while swimming, bubbles are created and these bubbles help in decreasing the density of the water. These bubbles serve as lubricators which reduce water viscosity. This can be compared to the high-end swimsuits.
10. They can stay underwater for around 10-15 minutes. After 10-15 minutes, they have come to the surface of the water to breathe.
Penguin Facts 11-20
11. They are social birds. They usually swim and hunt in groups and in Antarctica sometimes you can see 20 million penguins.
12. Though these penguins live in cold climates, they maintain a body temperature of 38 degrees Celsius or 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
13. Penguins are not sexually dimorphic, which means, it is too tough to say which one is male and which one is female.
14. Though they are mostly in water (sea), they have to come to land to lay eggs.
15. The areas where they lay eggs are called nestling areas. Those areas are also known as rookeries”. One rookery may have thousands of pairs of penguins. What is surprising is the fact that each penguin has a unique tone through which they can find their better half and kids.
16. The Magellanic Penguin (Spheniscus magellanicus) got its name from Ferdinand Magellan who was the one who saw these penguins for the first time in 1520.
17. Maraconi Penguins have the highest population of all the species of penguins. It has around 11,654,000 pairs.
18. Emperor penguins (Aptenodytes forsteri) are the masters in cold temperature. They are the ones who can withstand very low temperatures of all the penguin species. They can live in -40 degrees Celsius and when wind speeds hit 89 mph, they are very much capable of standing tall.
19. When it comes to heaviest birds, Emperor penguins capture the 5th But the male bird loses around 26 pounds of weight when he waits for the chick penguin to hatch.
20. Most of the penguins breed in hot weather climate times (summer and spring) and incubate for around 30-67 days. Emperor penguins however breed in the winters of chilly Antarctic and these are the ones who have the longest incubation period.
Penguin Facts: 21-30
21. These penguins (emperor penguins) have the longest continuous uninterrupted incubation period of all the bird species. The incubation period is around 64-67 days.
22. Penguins are believed to be short-sighted on land whereas they have good eyesight under waters.
23. Emperor penguins produce different voices – more than any other penguin species. Scientists assume the reason behind this is the lack of a nest site for these emperor penguins and hence they should rely on their vocal chords to find their mate and chicks.
24. As the name suggests, Emperor penguins are the largest of penguin species. They can grow as tall as 4 feet or 1.2 m and 45.3 kg or 100 pounds.
25. Next in line comes the King penguins (Aptenodytes patagonicus) which are around 3 feet tall and weigh 35 pounds. They don’t waddle like other penguins and are pretty fast runners in their club (species of penguins).
26. King Penguins are seen to form rookeries which contain up to 10,000 penguins. They (the couples) maintain an exact and close distance from each other.
27. Yellow-eyed Penguins (Megadyptes antipodes) are the third largest of all the penguins. Their eyes resemble that of cats with a yellowish hue. They thrive in the shores of New Zealand and few other islands which are closer to New Zealand.
28. Gentoo penguins (Pygoscelis papua) are around 30 inches tall and weigh 13 pounds. The most striking feature of these Gentoo penguins is their orange beak. No other species of penguin has it.
29. Little penguins (Eudyptula minor) are the smallest. They reach a meagre height of 16 inches and weigh around 2 pounds. They prefer to live in warmer climates and are found in Australia, Tasmania and New Zealand. These are also called Fairy or Blue penguins.
30. Macaroni penguins’ name is inspired by the colorful (yellow, orange, black) feathers or feather-like structures present on the top of their eyes. They derive their name after the so-called “macaroni dandies” a hairstyle which was a fad in the 18th century.
Penguin Facts: 31-40
31. Penguins, which inhabit Antarctica and the areas near Antarctica, survive in huge numbers but the penguins, which are present in warmer climates, are less in number in comparison with the penguins residing in Antarctica and nearby areas.
32. Like polar bears are seen only in the North Pole (Northern Hemisphere), penguins are seen only in the Southern Hemisphere. However, they don’t limit themselves to the South Pole.
33. Some species are found in New Zealand and Galapagos Penguins are endemic to Galapagos Islands, which is present near the equator. They may possibly enter the Northern Hemisphere one day.
34. Only two species of penguins, the Adélie (Pygoscelis adeliae) and the Emperor Penguins live in Antarctica. Other species go for warmer climate areas.
35. Like dogs, penguins pant to overcome overheating issues. They ruffle their plumages and keep their wings away from the body to cool themselves down.
36. Penguins body coloring is called “countershading” (darker color on the upper side of the body and lighter color on the lower side of the body). The penguins use this countershading as camouflage.
37. For the predators in the sky, the penguins’ black dorsal side gets mixed with the ocean’s dark bluish color and for the predators in deep waters, the penguins’ white ventral side mixes with sky and snow.
38. Like humans, bonding is important for penguins. Males in each species have their own way of attracting females. King Penguins indulge themselves and their partners in music by singing long songs with partners. Gentoo male penguins bring pebbles to females as a form of gift.
39. Most of the penguins lay two eggs in their nest. But Emperor and King penguins lay only one egg and they don’t have their own nest (King penguins have nestling colonies but no nests).
40. How do they warm the eggs then? Keeping them on their feet and then they incubate them in their brood pouch.
Penguin Facts: 41-50
41. When the chicks are born, they are vulnerable to ice cold water as they don’t have those waterproof feathers.
42. Till the down feathers of penguin chicks get replaced by the waterproof feathers, the baby penguins stay away from the ocean and are totally dependent on their parents for their survival.
43. Humans didn’t leave penguins’ eggs as well. They used to eat their eggs. For feathers, skin, oil and fecal matter (called guano), humans used to kill penguins. This led to the decrease in penguins’ population because the penguins used guano to build their nests and when the humans stole the guano, they had no option, but to lay eggs out in the open. As you guessed many eggs were eaten by predators.
44. Guano’s color changes with the food the penguin eats. For example: if a penguin eats krill, then the guano will be pink and if it eats fish, it will be white.
45. Guano was harvested by humans because it was rich nitrogen and it worked as an excellent natural fertilizer.
46. Larger a penguin is, colder is its environment and smaller a penguin is, warmer will be its environment.
47. Did you know that penguins of prehistoric times were as big as humans in height and weight? Lucky for us there are smaller versions of penguins available for us.
48. The largest of all penguins (which is extinct now) was the Anthropornis nordenskjoldi. It used to be 1.7 to 1.8 meters.
49. The earliest penguin fossil was found in Antarctica (obviously) in 1980. They were named Waimanu manneringi. They lived some 60 million years ago. The name is derived from a Maori (Polynesian tribe of New Zealand) word which meant “water bird”. They were also flightless birds.
50. The origin of the word Penguin is highly debatable. Some say that it stemmed from Welsh word pen gwyn meaning “white head”.
Penguin Facts: 51-60
51. But its first usage was seen in the 16th century as a synonym for Greek word Auk. Some researchers assume the word to come from Latin word pinguis meaning “fat”.
52. They swim fast enough so that they can be propelled up for about 7 feet from the water. This is seen in dolphins as well. This technique is called “porpoising”.
53. Smaller penguins don’t dive as deep as the bigger ones because they are weak and their bones are air-filled.
54. Unlike small penguins, big penguins’ bones are solid and Emperor penguins can dive to a depth of 1,870 feet and can remain in water for about 22 minutes.
55. In birds’ category, the Emperor penguin is ranked first when it comes to deep diving and also for longest duration for staying submerged.
56. In normal cases, the Emperor penguin’s heart rate is 60-70 times a minute but when it is about to dive the heart rate shoots up to 200 bpm (beats per minute) to store oxygen. The moment they touch water, the heart rate drops down to 100 bpm and slowly and gradually it decreases to 20 bpm.
57. Did you know that when they come to the water surface again, their heart rate goes back to 200 bpm?
58. Emperor penguins huddle together to stay warm in winters and unlike other cold climate living animals, they use their feathers for keeping themselves warm but not blubber (a layer of fat present under the skin). The feathers trap air and keep it warm, they simply insulate the penguins from the outside cold.
59. The children’s book, “And Tango Makes Three” was published in 2005 (authors were Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson). It talks about a homosexual Chinstrap penguin (Pygoscelis antarcticus) couple which were in Central Park Zoo in New York. Though it was based on a true story, the book became controversial.
60. Adélie penguin or Adelaide penguin (Pygoscelis adeliae) got its name from the name of its discoverer’s wife. The discoverer was Jules Dumont d’Urville. His wife’s name was Adéle.
Penguin Facts 61-70
61. Penguins can control the flow of blood to their wings, webbed feet etc. In this way, it allows only a little amount of its blood to get cold. They do see to it that the extremities of their bodies don’t get frozen.
62. Penguins can happily live in salt water without any problem because of the presence of a “supraorbital gland” that kind-of sieves the salt from the blood.
63. They excrete the salts through their beaks or they sneeze those salts out!
64. Emperor penguin fasts for around 115 days, and hence, it is considered as the longest-fasting member of the birds’ family. It starves itself when it incubates the egg in a brood pouch.
65. One penguin out of 50,000 penguins is born with lighter pigmentation feathers. These kind of penguins are called “Isabelline Penguins”. Isabelline is albinism but only partial. This isabellinism is found in 13 out of 17 different penguin species that live today.
66. Some of the species of penguins which show isabellinism are King Penguin (Aptenodytes patagonica); Yellow-Eyed Penguin (Megadyptes antipodes); Addie Penguin (Pygoscelis adelie); Gentoo Penguin (P. papua); Chinstrap Penguin (P. antarctica) etc.
67. These penguins that have isabellinism tend to live for very few years than the normal penguins because they can’t camouflage, and hence are more easily visible to predators. They don’t even mate that much to keep the isablelline penguins going.
68. Most of the penguins are found in Antarctica, South Africa, New Zealand, Chili, etc.
69. You often see penguins sliding on their stomachs on ice, snow etc. This sliding is called “tobogganing”. Scientists assume that the penguins derive fun out of this activity with an added bonus of a fast way to travel.
70. Young chicks of penguins’ group are known as “crèche”. When the penguins’ group is in water, it is called “raft” and when they are on land, they are called “waddle”.
Penguin Facts 71-80
71. Penguin eggs are pretty small if they are compared with their parents’ body size proportionally than any other species of birds. Even in that egg, the penguin egg (the yellow part of the egg) constitutes only 10-16% of the total egg. It is assumed that it is to avoid any damage to the egg in such a harsh environment.
72. Remember Happy feet? We just loved watching that movie, right? If you don’t know which species of penguins were shown in that movie, then we are here to help you. They were the Emperor Penguins.
73. Did you know that 30+ countries have Emperor Penguin stamps? They are really popular.
74. Penguins are really hairy, we mean feathery. They have more feathers than most of the birds. They have around 70 feathers per square inch. Here too, Emperor penguins lead, they have the most feathers of all the birds. They have 100 feathers per square inch. Are these Emperor Penguins not tired of being number one most of the time?
75. The name of Chinstrap Penguins (Pygoscelis antarcticus) is Chinstrap because of the presence of a streak of line under these penguins’ chin. They can raise colonies where their numbers may reach or sometimes exceed “a million” mark.
76. Though they look very dignified, they are one of the boldest and one of the most aggressive of all penguin groups. Because of their loud cries, Chinstrap Penguins are often given a nickname of “Stonecracker” penguins.
77. Penguins are not afraid of human beings. Scientists think that this is because of the fact that they barely have any predator which lives on land.
78. The rarest of all penguins is the Yellow-Eyed Penguin which has a population of 5000. These 5000 penguins are not captivated and can be found in New Zealand’s south-eastern coast and the adjacent islands.
79. The penguin which swims the fastest is the Gentoo Penguin. It can attain a speed of 22 mph.
80. Like humans, penguins also cheat. They are found to have “illicit affairs” with other penguins when they are raising a baby penguin with their partner. Some make lifetime partners while others mate with new partners of the same colony.
Penguin Facts 81-90
81. Just as some penguins are loyal to their partners, they are loyal to the rookeries as well. Some penguins go back to the same rookery where they took birth.
82. Penguins are mostly seen in large numbers. Scientists think that it is because of “safety in numbers.” This is a hypothesis which says when an individual remains in a large group, he is less likely to be attacked or fall prey to any mishap or accident.
83. Penguin parents really care a lot. They nurse the baby for months till the baby penguin is totally independent.
84. When a chick of Emperor penguin dies, the mother Emperor penguin “abducts” some other totally unrelated chick and rears as its own.
85. Don’t go by the external look of penguins, there is no external ear, but they possess excellent hearing skills which helps them to find their partners by their calls amidst such huge numbers.
86. There are two days dedicated for penguins. January 20 is Penguin Awareness Day and April 25 is World Penguin Day.
87. Researchers from Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS) found out that penguins could, long back in the past, fly. Then how did they lose the ability to fly? That is because they were getting adapted to the lifestyle where swimming was more important than flying. So, they lost the ability to fly but they became masters in swimming.
88. A penguin which is in the wild can live for around 15-20 years and most of the time i.e., 75% of the time, it is in the ocean.
89. The Erect-crested Penguin (Eudyptes sclateri) population has decreased a lot. It lost 70% of the members in just a score of years. Galapagos penguins lost 50% of members in over 30 years. There are 30% chances that they will be extinct in this century.
90. The main causes for this rapid decrease in the penguins’ population is pollution, algae blooms, oil spills, global warming, commercial fishing etc.