Everything You Wanted To Know About Penguins

Since today is International Penguin Day we at Penguin Place thought we’d put out a simple, fun and sort of complete guide to the wonderful world of penguins courtesy of the wonderful Kidzone Penguin Facts Pages.

Penguins are birds with black and white feathers and a funny waddle.  But unlike most birds, penguins are not able to fly — in the air that is.  Penguins spend as much as 75% of their time underwater, searching for food in the ocean.  When they are in the water, they dive and flap their wings.  It looks just like they are flying!

Penguins are shaped like a torpedo.  Their body is built for the most efficient swimming with their average speed in the water being about 15 miles per hour.
Airborne Penguins
The only time penguins are airborn is when they leap out of the water.  Penguins will often do this to get a gulp of air before diving back down for fish.  Penguins cannot breathe underwater, though they are able to hold their breath for a long time.  They also use their ability to leap out of the water to get from the ocean onto land if there are cliffs or ice flows to deal with.
Temperature
Penguins spend a lot of time dealing with temperature.  They are warm blooded, just like people with a normal body temperature of about 100 degrees F. So how do they stay warm in the cold places they live and in the icy cold waters? Just like whales, penguins have a layer of fat under their skin called “blubber”.  Overtop of this they are covered with fluffy “down” feathers and overtop of those they have their outer feathers which overlap to seal in warmth.  Penguins rub oil from a gland onto their feathers to help make them waterproof and windproof.
Dinner Time
Penguins eat seafood.  Their main diet is fish, though they’ll also eat squid, small shrimplike animals called “krill” (see photo to the right) and crustaceans. If you look closely at a penguin’s bill you’ll notice a hook at the end, perfect for grabbing dinner.  They also have backward facing bristles on their tongues that helps slippery seafood from getting away. Penguins don’t live near freshwater — at least none that isn’t frozen.  Instead they drink salt water.  They have a special gland in their bodies that takes the salt out of the water they drink and pushes it out of grooves in their bill.  A handy in-house filtration system!
Just a Boy and a Girl…
During the mating season penguins head for special nesting areas on the shore.  The area where penguins mate, nest and raise their chicks is called a “rookery”. When penguins are ready to mate, the male stands with his back arched and wings stretched.  He makes a loud call and struts about to attract a female. When the penguins find a mate, they bond with each other by touching necks and slapping each other on the back with their flippers.  They also “sing” to each other so they learn to recognize each other’s voices. Once a penguin finds a mate, they usually stay together for years — for as long as they have chicks.
Penguins don’t jump, they BOUNCE!
Penguins don’t live in the best habitats for finding nesting material, so they have to make do with what they can find. Rockhopper penguins build their nests on steep rocky areas.  To get there, they hold both feet together and bounce from ledge to ledge (imagine Winnie the Pooh’s Tigger with wings and you’ve got the idea).  These birds can bounce up to 5 feet! Magellanic penguins dig burrows under the ground to form huge “cities” similar to gophers. Adelies and chinstrap penguins use rocks to build their nests.  The perfect rock is a rare commodity for these birds.  They’ll often fight over or steal each other’s stones!

Adelie and Chinstrap Penguins

Penguin Chicks
As soon as the egg is laid (penguins lay one or two eggs at a time), the female dashes out for dinner, leaving the male to watch the nest. When the female returns (it can take up to two weeks for her to come back) it’s the male’s turn to head out for food, leaving the female with the egg. When the chick hatches, it immediately starts calling so that its parents will learn to recognize its voice.
Penguin Predators
Penguins are a food source for a number of marine mammals, especially leopard seals.  These seals hide under ice flows and wait for their prey.  Other marine mammal predators are sea lions and orcas. The penguins aren’t without protection though.  Their white bellies blend with the snow and sunlight making it difficult for an underwater predator to see them.  Penguins are also eaten by a number of birds — for example, the Australian sea eagle and the Skua.  The penguins black backs blend against the dark ocean water, making it more difficult to spot them from above. Penguins also have a number of on-land predators like ferrets, cats, snakes, lizards, foxes and rats.
Playful Penguin Pastimes
Between staying warm, raising chicks, finding food and avoiding predators, a penguin’s life may not sound like much fun.  But penguins have some playful pastimes — many of which are surprisingly similar to human hobbies!
Tobogganing:  Penguins lie on their belly and toboggan through the ice and snow.  This helps them move quickly.
Surfing:  Penguins are often seen surfing through the waves onto land.
Penguin Habitat
There are 17 species of penguin, each slightly different.  Some of the species have nicknames which can cause people to think there are more than 17 species (for example the Little penguin is also known as the Blue penguin).All of the species live in the Southern hemisphere.  Many live at the South Pole on Antarctica.  But some don’t live in such cold places.  They are found on the coasts of South America, Africa, Australia, New Zealand and the Galapagos Islands.  The Emperor penguin is the only species that breeds and nests in Antarctica through the frigid winter.
Adelie Penguins
Adelie penguins are the smallest of the Antarctic penguins.  One way to distinguish them from the other penguins is by their all black head and the white ring around their eye. Adelie penguins were named after the wife of a French explorer in the 1830s.  They are about 2 feet tall and weigh 8 or 9 pounds.  Their diet is mainly fish.
Adelies build their nests of stones on the rocky beaches of Antarctica, jealously guarding and often fighting over the best rocks. There are over 2.5 million breeding pairs living in Antarctica.  They live in groups of about 10,000 birds.

Adelie Penguin

African Penguins
African penguins have a black upside down U-shape on their neck with black speckles on their chest.  They are about 2 feet tall and weigh between 7 and 11 pounds.
African penguins live and breed on the coast of South Africa.  People have hunted these penguins so much that their numbers declined from at least one million to about 150,000.  They are now a protected species, but are still caused trouble by oil spills off the coast of Africa. African penguins are also known as the Blackfoot penguin.
Chinstrap Penguins
Chinstrap penguins get their name from the small black band that runs under their chin.  They are about 2 feet tall and weigh about 10 pounds.  They feed on krill and fish. Chinstrap penguins are the most common penguins with a population of about 13 million.  They often live on large icebergs on the open ocean in the Antarctic region.

Chinstrap Penguin

Emperor Penguins
Emperor penguins are the largest penguin species.  They are nearly 4 feet tall and weigh up to 90 pounds.  Those are BIG penguins! Emperor penguins are easily identifiable by their size and the orange “glow” on their cheeks. Emperor penguins live, year round, in the Antarctic. Temperatures can fall as low as -140 degrees Fahrenheit (-60 degrees Celsius).   Most penguin species lay two eggs at a time, but due to the difficulty of raising chicks in such a harsh climate, the Emperor penguin only lays one egg.

Emperor Penguin

Most penguin species take turns warming the egg, but it’s up to the Emperor penguin dads to do all the work once the egg is laid.  The male stands with the egg on his feet under a brood pouch (for warmth).  He does this for up to 9 weeks, without food, waiting for the chick to hatch.  During this time, the male may lose up to half its body weight. Once the egg hatches, the female returns and the male heads out to the ocean to feed.
Galapagos Penguins
Penguins do not live in the wild in any location in the Northern Hemisphere.
But, one penguin comes close. The northern most colony of penguins are located in the Galapagos Islands.  The Galapagos Penguins can survive close to the equator because the Humboldt current brings cold waters to the islands from the Antarctic.
Gentoo Penguins
Gentoo penguins live on many of the islands of the Antarctic region but the main colony is on the Falklands.  They are about 3 feet tall and weigh about 13 pounds.  Their diet consists of krill and some small fish.  Gentoo penguins are easily identifiable by the wide white stripe over the top of their head.  It runs from one eye to the other.
Gentoo penguins make nests on the inland grasslands.  They pile stones, grass and sticks to create a circular nest.  Like the Adelies and Chinstrap penguins, the Gentoo will also fight over stones for nesting.

Gentoo Penguin

King Penguins
The King penguin is the second largest penguin and looks somewhat like the Emperor penguin.  They are about 3 feet tall and weigh up to 35 pounds. King penguins have orange spots near their ears and on the neck. King penguins mainly eat fish and some squid and crustaceans.  They are found on many sub-Antarctic islands including Crozet, Prince Edward , Kerguelen, South Georgia and Mazquarie Islands. Like the Emperor penguin, the King penguin hatches only one chick at a time.  Their chicks have fuzzy brown feathers for about a year after they are born.

King Penguin and Chick

Macaroni Penguins
“Macaroni” used to be a hairstyle in 18th century England. Didn’t you ever wonder why Yankee Doodle called the feather in his cap, “Macaroni”?  It’s not about pasta, it’s about a penguin!!   The Macaroni penguins were so named by English sailors because the yellow and black feathers sticking out of the side of their heads looked like an 18th century English hairstyle.

Stuck a feather in his cap and called it Macaroni

Magellanic penguins were named after the explorer Ferdinand Magellan who first saw them in 1519 on his first voyage around the tip of South America. Magellanic penguins are about 2 feet, 3 inches tall and weigh 9 pounds.  They are the largest of the warm weather penguins. They live on the coast of the Argentina, Chile and the Falkland Islands. During mating season, Magellanic penguins burrow, forming underground nesting colonies.

Magellanic Penguins

Rockhopper Penguins
Similar to the Macaroni penguins, the Rockhopper penguins have decorative feather tufts on their heads — theirs are yellow in color.  Their most unusual trait is their ability to hop from rock to rock to their nesting places.  They keep both feet together when hopping.  Using this method, they are able to hop up to four or five feet!

Rockhopper and Chick

Yellow-eyed Penguins

The yellow-eyed penguins have a band of yellow feathers going from the bill, circling the eyes and up around the head. The yellow-eyed penguin lives on the coast of New Zealond.  It is the rarest of all penguins due to the deforestation of the New Zealand coastline and the introduction of new predatory species to the island.  Sadly, there are only an estimated 1,500 breeding pairs of yellow-eyed penguins.

The rare Yellow Eyed Penguin of New Zealand

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2 Responses to “Everything You Wanted To Know About Penguins”

  1. Human Best Story Says:

    Human Best Story…

    […]Everything You Wanted To Know About Penguins « Penguin Place Post[…]…

  2. kaniah Says:

    I love penguins I think they are so cute!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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