Penguins are one of the most recognisable animals in the world. All penguins live in the Southern Hemisphere. While they look a little bit clumsy on land, waddling around, once you see them swim gracefully through the water you realise the ocean is where they really belong. Penguins have adapted well to the changing world around them and are a fascinating animal. We’ve listed some of the most interesting facts about penguins for you to learn about below:
1. Their tuxedo isn’t just a fashion statement
Penguins have a pretty distinctive black and white coat, which acts as a type of camouflage to protect them from hunters above and below. The black blends in with sea waves and their white bellies blend in with the sunlight coming through the surface.
2. Penguins don’t have teeth
In keeping with many of their other winged relatives, penguins don’t possess teeth. Instead, fleshy spines on the inside of their mouth are used to help them to grab and eat their prey.
3. They’re actually pretty fast!
They might not look like it, but some penguins can move quickly when they need to. The Gentoo penguin can swim at speeds up to 22 miles per hour (mph) while most other penguins swim underwater at around 4-7mph.
4. You can see penguin colonies from space!
Nearly every type of penguin (apart from two) breeds in colonies so that they are protected from predators. When you have a lot of penguins in one place, you have a lot of penguin poop. In fact, there’s so much poop, it stains the ice! Scientists are able to identify where the penguins are based on darker patches of ice.
5. Penguins lose all their feathers at once
Other birds lose feathers and replace them as they go; you’ve probably seen feathers fluttering around in nature reserves and parks. But this isn’t the case for penguins! Penguins lose all their fur at once, a time called the “catastrophic moult” which lasts for 2-3 weeks. Penguins must spend this time on land. It happens about once a year and as they can’t swim or fish when this is happening, they have to eat plenty of food to make sure they put on weight before this happens so they are insulated.
6. Penguins use oil to keep themselves warm
They have an oil gland near their tail that produces waterproof oil. Using their feathers, penguins spread this across their body. It helps them to glide gracefully through the water and insulates them against cold. A messy but very important job in the freezing cold Antartic seas!
7. Penguins are carnivores
We bet you thought they only ate fish? No; penguins do, in fact, eat a variety of food including fish, crabs and squid. During the summer months, they can eat up to 2 pounds of food a day, which is similar to the weight of a bag of sugar. In winter, this reduces to less than half that amount.
8. Some penguin species are under threat
There are 18 different species of penguin in the world, ranging from the small Magellanic penguin to the bigger (and more well known) Emperor penguin. Penguins are very vulnerable to climate change because of where they live and can also be affected by oil spills, pollution and predators. Out of the 18 different species, only 5 are not threatened.
9. Most penguins are monogamous
This means that male and female penguins mate for life. Mating season for most penguins happens in spring or summer. Research has found that penguins will stick together for the mating season and then return to the same partner the following year.
10. Male Emperor penguins look after the baby penguins
After mating, the female Emperor penguin will lay one egg and place it on the male’s feet to keep warm. The male then covers the egg with his feathers. This is called a “brood pouch”. He looks after the egg, taking very special care of it for two months until it is ready to hatch. During this time the female will go out and hunt for several weeks, travelling up to 80km!
After all that, we hope you agree that penguins are a really interesting animal!