Inside: Penguins are adorable. These birds in tuxedos are elegant flightless creatures. Do penguins have teeth? Ears? Waddle through these fun facts to find out.
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Penguins are sweet! One of my favorite memories of going to the zoo is of the penguins. Looking like little men in tuxedo’s, their antics never failed to entertain. Although these charismatic seabirds seem so out of place on land with their awkward but cute waddling, their torpedo-shaped bodies kick ass in water.
Watching them launch themselves down a slide head first and then slice into the water below was always entertaining. It was so sweet how the whole group would line up and patiently wait their turn to dive bomb down that slide. Apparently, this playful good-natured behavior happens in the wild as well. These striking creatures love to play.
We love penguins so much, in fact, that we have given them two special days a year – January 20 is Penguin Awareness Day and World Penguin Day celebrated on April 25 coincides with their annual northern migration.
Here are 20 interesting facts about these charming tuxedoed birds. Waddle through these interesting penguin facts to educate yourself about why they’re not just so freakin’ cute but are also an important part of our world.
- There are 17 species of penguins all found in the southern hemisphere.
- The tallest penguin species is the Emperor penguin at 4 ft tall while the smallest is the Little Blue penguin at only 16 inches.
- The fastest species is the Gentoo Penguin which can swim at speeds of 22 mph.
- The Macaroni penguin is renowned for having the highest population at over 11 million pairs. The Galapagos penguin has the lowest population with only 15000 individuals and is considered endangered.
- The Galapagos penguin is the most northern species sometimes venturing briefly into the northern hemisphere.
- Smaller penguins live in warmer climates because their smaller bodies lose heat faster while larger penguin such as the Emperor live in colder climates since their larger body mass keeps in more heat.
- The Emperor penguin breeds in the coldest climate of any bird species. In their Antarctic habitat air temperatures can reach -40ºF and wind speeds can reach 89 mph.
- Penguins don’t rely on blubber to keep warm. They survive their cold climate by trapping warm air in feathers next to their skin. These feathers act as insulation and when swimming for prey, there is more heat generated by their muscle use which is trapped by this feather layer.
- Most birds lose and replace a few feathers at a time. Penguins go through something called a catastrophic molt. They lose all of their feathers at once and spend 2 to 3 weeks trapped on land as they wait for their new feathers to grow.
- Feathers are very important to Antarctic penguins. The Emperor penguins have the highest feather density of any bird. They have 100 feathers per inch². Their surface feathers can get colder than the surrounding air which helps the penguin stay warm.
- Penguins have no visible ears but their hearing is excellent.
- Each penguin has a distinct call that allows individuals to find their mate and chicks in large groups.
- Unlike other birds, penguins don’t have teeth. They have, instead, backward fleshy spines lining their throat.
- Penguins are carnivores swallowing whole fish, krill and squid.
- The Emperor penguin can stay under water for more than 20 minutes reaching depths of more than 1800 feet where they feed on fish, squid, krill and other crustaceans.
- Male Emperor penguins use their feet as a nest. They incubate a single egg on top of their feet under a loose fold of skin. Under this skin is an area that is featherless with lots of blood vessels that keep the egg warm.
- Their tuxedo appearance serves a useful purpose. It is a type of camouflage known as counter shading. From above their black backs blend into the murky depths of the ocean. From below their white bellies are hidden against the bright surface.
- Penguins ingest a lot of salty water swallowing their prey whole. Too much salt is dangerous for them like it is for us. They deal with excess salt through a pair of supraorbital glands located behind their eyes. These glands filter out salt from their bloodstream. They get rid of this filtered salt by sneezing or excreting it through their beaks.
- Wild penguins have no predators on land. Thus, they don’t fear human tourists brave enough to venture to their cold habitats.
- Most penguins live in large groups, especially at breeding time. They produce so much poop their colonies can be found from space by looking for dark ice patches.