Penguins are really interesting animals that are cool creatures. They are often seen in zoos and aquariums, and sometimes you can watch as their caretakers feed them and make them do tricks. If you would like to know more about penguins, keep reading, as we have listed 13 interesting facts about penguins.
1. Penguins Spend Half their Life On Land, Half in Water
Penguins spend about half of their life on land or ice and spend the other half in water. Their bodies are built to keep them warm in the artic and in the ice-cold waters that they swim in unless their natural habitat is somewhere warm. (Source)
When on land or ice, they spend time with their penguin friends, mate with other penguins, take care of their eggs, and take care of their chicks. When swimming, they look for food to eat. Penguins don’t often swim alone and instead swim with other penguins that are part of their colony.
2. Penguins Love Swimming Fast
Penguins love swimming quickly, even when surrounded by their friends. While swimming, they often dive deep below the surface to look for food. Their ability to swim fast also helps them avoid predators like leopard seals and killer whales. When they see or sense that a predator is approaching, they dart away to safety. Penguins eat things like fish, octopus, and shrimp, so they need to be able to swim extremely fast to catch their food.
Luckily, penguins can swim at speeds up to 25 miles per hour depending on the species. Sometimes, they can only swim up to 15 miles per hour, but that is still pretty impressive when you compare it to how fast humans can swim. (Source)
If you were to race a penguin at a swimming competition, the penguin would definitely win. In fact, the penguin could probably swim the course about 2-3 times as you swim the course once and still beat you by a landslide.
Also, penguins can hold their breath for a long time, which helps them find food underwater because they don’t have to swim to the surface very often when they run out of breath.
3. Penguins Can’t Fly
Although it looks like penguins have wings that could help them get off of the ground, they can’t fly. However, their swimming abilities make up for the fact that they can’t fly because of how fast they can swim. Even though penguins can’t fly, they have plenty of ways to get around the ice and land that they inhabit.
Instead of wings that look like the ones that most birds have, penguins have flippers that help them guide themselves through water and increase their speed as they swim. (Source)
It is good that penguins don’t have wings and can’t fly, as the arctic, where many penguins live, is extremely windy. If they tried to fly, they would just get blown away! It would also be extremely hard to see enough to fly during a blizzard, so a penguin’s flippers are much more useful to them than traditional bird wings.
4. Penguins Share Parenting Duties
In the wild, many animal mothers are the only ones that take care of their young, and other animals take turns caring for their young. Penguins fall into the second category, as male and female penguins take turns taking care of their eggs before and after they hatch.
In the winter, when penguin eggs are laid, penguins lay 1-2 eggs. The number will vary depending on the species. After the eggs are laid, the female penguin goes hunting for food for about 2 months while the male penguin cares for the egg. When the mother penguin returns, they trade duties and the male penguin goes off for about 2 months to hunt for food.
After the eggs hatch, the parents continue to take turns taking care of the chicks. However, when both parents have to hunt, they leave their chicks with another penguin that takes care of many other chicks until they return. When the chicks are gathered in these groups, it is called a crèche.
5. Male Penguins Give Gifts to Female Penguins
Penguins court each other before breeding season, kind of like humans do. When a male penguin is interested in a female penguin, he gives her small gifts to catch her attention and make her interested in him. However, they don’t give them gifts that you might think of when trying to impress someone else.
Male penguins give female penguins rocks as gifts to make them interested in courting them. These rocks are quite useful to female penguins, as they use the rocks that they have been given and the ones that they have gathered to build a nest for the winter.
6. There are 18-20 Different Types of Penguins
Although a few species of penguin are featured the most often in TV shows and movies, there are about 18-20 different species of penguin. I say there is a range in the number of species of penguin because scientists are always debating exactly how many different penguin species there are, so the exact number is not known or currently determined. (Source)
However, that doesn’t mean that different penguin species can be found all around the world outside of zoos and penguin habitats. Most penguin species live in the arctic, on the Antarctic coasts, and on sub-arctic islands. (Source)
Many penguins are known for their coloring, as they have a mostly black body and head with white on their stomach and the front of their neck. Sometimes, there is white on their faces, but that varies by the species of penguin.
Sometimes they are orange where the black meets the white, but their exact coloring and color pattern varies depending on the penguin species and penguin. However, this tuxedo appearance is not just to make the male penguins look appealing to the female penguins.
The tuxedo coloring that many penguins have helps them stay hidden in the water so they can avoid predators and sneak up on prey, as it kind of camouflages them. This type of camouflage is called countershading. (Source)
8. Penguins are Tapered
Penguins have a very specific body shape that helps them swim extremely fast. They may seem to be very round when you look at them while they are standing on land or ice, but that is because they have quite a bit of blubber that helps them stay warm in extremely cold temperatures.
Their blubber may look like it would inhibit them from swimming fast to you, but it doesn’t, as it is relatively evenly distributed and penguin feathers are extremely smooth, helping them glide through the water as they swim.
However, there are other factors of penguin bodies that help them swim quickly. One factor is that their bodies are tapered, so their beaks and feet are small, their heads are relatively large, they have short necks, and their bodies are elongated. This helps them swim extremely quickly so they can catch fish and avoid predators.
9. A Penguin’s Feet Help Them Steer
A penguin’s feet help them steer while they are swimming. Although their flippers also help them speed up while swimming, penguins often use their flippers to increase their speed while they use their feet to steer. However, that is not the only thing that a penguin’s feet are useful for.
Although penguins swim often, they mainly swim to find food. They don’t swim to other islands or bodies of ice unless they are familiar with the island and that is part of their territory. Instead, they travel across land or bodies of ice by walking with the rest of their colony. Some penguins march across about 60 miles of ice every breeding season so they can get to their breeding grounds.
10. Penguins Can Drink Saltwater
Have you ever tried to drink salt water or accidentally drank it while swimming in the ocean? If you have, you know that it is absolutely disgusting and you always want to drink a lot of fresh water afterward so you can get rid of the taste and stay hydrated. Penguins don’t have that problem, as they can drink saltwater.
Penguins can drink salt water because they have special glands in their bodies that filter the salt from salt water out of their blood so they don’t get sick. This is extremely helpful because penguins oftentimes live in places that are surrounded by saltwater oceans, so it is sometimes hard for them to find freshwater. If they didn’t have these glands, they would become dehydrated and die. (Source)
Have you ever wondered why penguins sometimes shake their heads for no reason when you see them in TV shows and movies? Well, they shake their heads to get rid of the salty brine that the salt-filtering glands produce, as it comes out of their nostrils. This salty brine basically makes it look like penguins always have a cold, but they don’t. But they get rid of it pretty quickly with their iconic motion.
11. Penguins Can Jump
Although penguins often travel by walking, swimming, or sliding across the ice on their bellies, they can also jump. This is helpful when they need to jump from ice formation to ice formation or when they come across rocky terrain that they need to cross.
When penguins jump, they keep both of their feet together and kind of use their flippers to keep themselves upright. It looks extremely funny when a penguin jumps, especially when they don’t totally nail the landing and slip on the ice when they land or when they fall.
People rarely see wild penguins jump, even though penguins that live in zoos or sanctuaries often jump into water or from various points of their enclosure. Because of this, if you want to see a penguin jumping, you will likely have to go to a zoo that has a penguin enclosure and watch them until they decide to jump into the water.
12. Emperor Penguins are the Biggest Penguin Species
Many penguins are quite large, but Emporer Penguins are the biggest species of penguin currently alive. Emporer penguins grow to be 45-47 inches tall, which is almost 4 feet tall. An emperor penguin might be even taller than you! (Source)
Unfortunately, if you want to compare your height to the height of an emperor penguin, you will have to find a zoo that houses them. There are only a few zoos that house emperor penguins, so that will be hard to do.
However, there are many other different penguin species that you can compare your height to when you visit your local zoo. Many penguins are a lot smaller and shorter than emperor penguins and are often housed in zoos or aquariums.
13. Penguin Lifespan
Penguins can live for quite a long time, although some species of penguins only live for a few years. Emperor Penguins live for about 15-20 years, while Little Penguins only live for about 6-7 years. (Source)
One penguin named Olde that lived in a Denmark zoo lived to be over 41 years old, which is about 21 years older than the expected lifespan of an emperor penguin. This penguin was a gentoo penguin. Other penguins have lived for about 30 years, even when their expected lifespan is much shorter.
The penguin species that has the longest expected lifespan is the Magellanic penguin. They can live up to about 30 years old, although some can live longer depending on their living conditions.
Overall, penguins are extremely interesting animals, and there are many different types of penguins. It is no wonder why so many TV specials and movies have been made featuring penguins, their lives, and their normal habits. If you would like to know more facts about different penguin species, visit your local zoo that has a penguin habitat and read the facts on various plaques in the general area. Penguins live in colonies, so they always have friends surrounding them.