19 Facts about Penguins

Did you know that April 25 of each year is the World Penguin Day? To celebrate this day, Toplst decided to present you a list with some interesting facts about these charismatic seabirds.

Penguins seem a bit out of place on land, with their “fashion tuxedos” and clumsy waddling. And then they enter into the water and you see their grace and think for yourself “that’s where they’re meant to be!”.

Depending on which authority is followed, the number of species of penguins varies between 17 and 20 living species, all of which are native to the Southern Hemisphere, especially in Antarctica. However, they are not found only in cold climates, only a few species of penguin live so far south and the most northerly penguins are Galapagos penguins (Spheniscus mendiculus), which live near the equator.

Penguins are carnivores that catch all their food live while swimming: they feed on fish, squid, crabs, krill and other seafood. During the summer, an active, medium-sized penguin will eat about 907 g (2 lb.) of food each day, but in the winter they’ll eat just a third of that.

Penguins lost the ability to fly millions of years ago, but their powerful flippers and streamlined bodies make them very accomplished swimmers. Many penguin species take to the air when they leap from the water onto the ice. Just before taking flight, they release air bubbles from their feathers. This cuts the drag on their bodies, allowing them to double or triple their swimming speed quickly and launch into the air.

Penguins are capable to swim underwater at around 6 to 12 km/h (4 to 7 mph), but the fastest penguin—the gentoo (Pygoscelis papua)—can reach top speeds of 36 km/h (22 mph)! The reason for this high speeds, is that while swimming, penguins will leap in shallow arcs above the surface of the water, a practice called “porpoising”, and this coats their plumage with tiny bubbles that reduce friction.

Penguin’s eyes are adapted for underwater vision, and are their primary means of locating prey and avoiding predators.

The blue penguin (Eudyptula minor), also known as the Fairy Penguin, is the smallest of the penguin species at 0.41 m (16 in) tall and weighs about 1 kg (2.2 lb.). The emperor penguin (Aptenodytes forsteri) is the largest penguin species which is about 1.1 m (3.7 ft) tall and weighs between 27-41 kg (60-90 lb.).

The light front and dark back coloration of classic penguin plumage is called “countershading”: it helps them be camouflaged while swimming. A predator looking up from below (such as an orca or a leopard seal) has difficulty distinguishing between a white penguin belly and the reflective water surface. The dark plumage on their backs camouflages them from above.

Penguins are highly social, colonial birds that breed in large colonies for protection, ranging from 200 to hundreds of thousands of birds, except two penguin species: Yellow-eyed and Fiordland species.

Penguins can drink salt water! Reason: they have a supraorbital gland, located just above their eye, that filters excess salt from the bloodstream. The salt is excreted through the bill—or by sneezing!

Dives of the large emperor penguin have been recorded reaching a depth of 565 m (1,854 ft) for up to 22 minutes!

Depending on the species, a wild penguin can live 15-20 years.

Penguins spend 75 percent of their time at sea, but all penguins give birth to their young on land or sea ice.

The yellow-eyed penguin (Megadyptes antipodes) is the most endangered penguin species, with only about 4,000 birds surviving in the wild. They can only be found along the southeastern coast of New Zealand and smaller nearby islands.

Penguins don’t have teeth! They use their pointy beaks to catch the prey and their textured tongues to hold onto the food while they swallow it.

Every year, during 2-3 weeks, penguins shed their feathers and grow new ones, it’s called catastrophic molt! They can’t swim and fish without feathers, so they fatten themselves up beforehand to survive during this time.

To keep warm in their chilly environment, penguins’ bodies are insulated with a thick layer of blubber and covered in waterproof feathers.

Newborn penguins do not have waterproof feathers so must wait before going in the water.

Penguins have an oil gland (also called preen) which produces waterproofing oil. Penguins spread this across their feathers to insulate their bodies and reduce friction when they glide through the water.

Feathers are quite important to penguins living around Antarctica during the winter. Emperor penguins have the highest feather density of any bird, at 100 feathers per square inch. In fact, the surface feathers can get even colder than the surrounding air, helping to keep the penguin’s body stays warm.

And for last, lets put a smile on your face with this funny fall from a penguin!