Tue. Nov 24th, 2020
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Penguins are amongst the most exotic flightless birds in the world. With their almost rare capabilities you will find yourself admiring them as you read through these amazing facts about them. These penguins spend around half their time in water and the other half on land, this makes them more adapted to the aquatic life than on land.

Large penguin populations can be found in southernmost countries such as New Zealand, Australia, Chile, Argentina and South Africa

The first published account of penguins comes from Antonio Pigafetta, who was aboard Ferdinand Magellan’s first circumnavigation of the globe in 1520. They spotted the animals near what was probably Punta Tombo in Argentina. (He called them “strange geese.”)

However, an earlier anonymous diary entry from Vasco da Gama’s 1497 voyage around the Cape of Good Hope makes mention of flightless birds as large as ducks.

Did you know that on April 25 of each year is World Penguin Day. And to that matter, I have decided to do a little research and present to you some 25 fun facts about our penguins, beforehand.

I hope you enjoy the fun facts:

  1. Penguins are flightless birds, however, they have adapted flippers to help them swim in the water. They have an adaptive 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.
  2. Most penguins swim underwater at around four to seven miles per hour (mph), but the fastest penguin species is the Gentoo Penguin (Pygoscelis papua), which can reach a swimming speed of up to 22 mph.
  3. All 17 species of penguins alive today live in the Southern Hemisphere. Whereas the Galapagos Penguin (Spheniscus mendiculus) is the only penguin species that occasionally ventures in the Northern Hemisphere.
  4. Gentoo penguins “porpoise” by jumping out of the water. They can move faster through air than water, and will often porpoise to escape from a predator.
  5. While most birds moult (lose and replace feathers) a few at a time, penguins moult all at once and spend about two to three weeks land-bound as they undergo what is called the catastrophic moult. During this time they can’t swim and for food, so they fatten themselves up beforehand to survive the 23 weeks it takes to replace them
  6. All but two species of penguins breed in large colonies ranging from hundreds to thousands of birds, mainly for protection. Living in such huge colonies leads to an abundance of penguin poop which stains the ice that scientists can locate those colonies from space by looking for dark ice patches.
  7. Many penguins will mate with the same member of the opposite sex season after season.
  8. Most species are also loyal to their exact nesting site, often returning to the same rookery in which they were born.
  9. Penguins are mainly carnivores: they feed on fish, squid, crabs, krill and other seafood they catch while swimming. During the summer, an active, medium-sized penguin will eat about 2 pounds of food each day, but in the winter they’ll eat just a third of that.
  10. Penguins ingest a lot of seawater while hunting for fish, but a special gland behind their eyes, the supraorbital gland, filters out the saltwater from their blood stream. This is later excreted through their beaks or by sneezing. To quench their thirst penguins drink meltwater from pools and streams and eat snow for their hydration fix.
  11. The Emperor Penguin (Aptenodytes forsteri) is the tallest of all penguin species, reaching as tall as 120 cm (47 in) in height. While the smallest penguin species is the Little Blue Penguin, which is only about 16 inches.
  12. Emperor penguins have the highest feather density of any bird, at 100 feathers per square inch. And can stay underwater for around 20 minutes at a time.
  13. If a female Emperor Penguin’s baby dies, she will often “kidnap” an unrelated chick.
  14. Emperor Penguins often huddle together to keep warm in the cold temperatures of Antarctica. Some species create nests for their eggs out of pebbles and loose feathers. The Emperor Penguins incubates a single egg each breeding season on the top of their feet. Under a loose fold of skin is a featherless area with a concentration of blood vessels that keeps the egg warm.
  15. In some species, it is the male penguin which incubates the eggs while females leave to hunt for weeks at a time. Because of this, pudgy males with enough fat storage to survive weeks without eating are most desirable.
  16. Unlike most sea mammals which rely on blubber to stay warm, penguins survive because their feathers trap a layer of warm air next to the skin that serves as insulation, especially when they start generating muscular heat by swimming around.
  17. King Penguins are the second largest penguin species. They have four layers of feathers to help keep them warm on the cold subantarctic islands where they breed.
  18. Chinstrap Penguins get their name from the thin black band under their head. At times it looks like they’re wearing a black helmet, which might be useful as they’re considered the most aggressive type of penguin.
  19. Penguin parents both male and female care for their young for several months until the chicks are strong enough to hunt for food on their own.
  20. Despite their lack of visible ears, penguins have excellent hearing and rely on distinct calls to identify their mates when returning to the crowded breeding grounds.
  21. Because they aren’t used to danger from animals on solid ground, wild penguins exhibit no particular fear of human tourists.
  22. Just like other birds, penguins don’t have teeth. Instead, they have backward-facing fleshy spines that line the inside of their mouths. These help them guide their fishy meals down their throat.
  23. In the 16th century, the word penguin actually referred to great auks (Pinguinus impennis), a now-extinct species that inhabited the seas around eastern Canada. When explorers travelled to the Southern Hemisphere, they saw black and white birds that resembled auks, and called them penguins.
  24. Yellow-Eyed penguins (Megadyptes antipodes) are the most endangered penguins native to New Zealand. Their population is believed to be around 4000.
  25. A Penguin’s black and white plumage serves as camouflage while swimming. The black plumage on their back is hard to see from above, while the white plumage on their front looks like the sun reflecting off the surface of the water when seen from below. This adaptation helps them avoid predators, such as leopard seals and hunt for fish undetected.

Despite their exotic and loved nature, penguins are still the most vulnerable species on earth. Climate change has a major effect on these flightless guys especially those living in the Antarctic, if the ice melts, we’re likely to lose a great number of them, but I do hope it doesn’t get that much. Personally, I hope one day I would at least take a picture with them. Otherwise, Happy World Penguins Day in advance!


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Silvaro D'Silvas

By Silvaro D'Silvas

An adventurer on pursuit for knowledge and to share it with the World.

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