47 Penguin Facts: Things About The Aquatic Flightless Bird

Sridevi Tolety
Dec 08, 2022 By Sridevi Tolety
Originally Published on Apr 17, 2022
Edited by Erin Murton
Fact-checked by Lenin Kambam
Penguins are flightless, torpedo-shaped birds. Read on to know more cool penguin facts!

Penguins are often thought of as small, black-and-white birds, but in reality these birds come in various sizes and colors.

The unique coloring of penguins helps them escape from the predators like leopard seals, sea lions, and orca whales. The black color blends into the dark ocean when seen from above, and when seen from bellow, the penguin's white belly blends with the color of snow and light sky.

Penguins come in various colors; for example, the crested penguins exhibit a crown of yellow feathers.

King and emperor penguins' neck is marked with orange and yellow color, luxuriant florescent yellow eyebrows adorn the heads of some species. These species are the Fiordland, Rockhopper, Royal, and Snares penguins.

Penguins, unlike most other birds, do not have hollow bones. Penguins have heavy bones, which counteracts their natural buoyancy, making them very quick swimmers. They can swim up to 15 mph (24.14 kph). Though flightless sea birds, penguins are expert swimmers.

Penguins dive on average 100 to 200 ft (30 to 60 m) underwater in search of food. Emperor penguins can dive impressively deep, making dives to 1,500 ft (460 m) occasionally. Penguins eat krill, squid and fish as their main diet.

These flightless birds are widely distributed in cooler waters from Africa to Australia and along coastlines in the Southern Hemisphere. As per the scientists, there are 17 to 19 varieties of penguins.

Penguins being in the ocean, drink salt water. The water's salt is taken out by a special gland in their bodies and pushed through special grooves in their bill; this process filters the saltwater taken by the penguins.

Systematics And Evolution

'Penguin' literally means 'white head.' The 'pen' means head, and 'gwyn', a Welsh word, means white. Penguins are among the 40 species of flightless birds found around the world today.

The oldest known penguin fossil dating from about 61 million years ago is the Waimanu Manneringi.

37-million-year-old remains of a 'mega' or 'colossus' species of penguin were discovered on Seymour Island in the Antarctic Peninsula. The massive penguin was estimated to have been 6.5 feet tall and weighed more than 250 pounds (113.3kgs).

In 1520 the Magellanic penguin species was first recorded. 

Today there are less than 4,000 megellanic penguins, making them one of the rarest species of penguin.

Deco, an African penguin held at New England Aquarium in Boston, is 40 years old! She is the world's oldest penguin.

There are 18 species of penguins, out of which 13 are either threatened or endangered, and some are on the verge of extinction.

The northern rockhopper penguin, the erect-crested penguin, the yellow-eyed penguin, the African penguin, and the Galápagos penguin are the five penguin species that are endangered.

Over the last 20 years, the erect-crested penguin has lost approximately 70% of its population. Since the 1970s, the Galapagos penguin has lost over 50%.

With approximately 11,654,000 pairs, the macaroni penguin has the highest number of individuals within the species, and the king penguin is the second-largest penguin species in term of numbers.

Pollution, global warming, commercial fishing, loss of habitat by human invasion, oil dumping, and algae blooms are the common threats to penguin survival.

Anatomy And Physiology

One of the most fascinating penguin facts is that the penguins' body has many adaptations for swimming quickly and gracefully and capturing their prey with ease. Also, every penguin has a unique voice or call with which they find their mates and chicks in large groups. Read on to know more about penguin facts.

The little penguin or blue penguin is the smallest penguin species, at 10 - 12 inches (25.4 - 30.48 cm) tall and weighing about 2 to 3 lbs (0.90 - 1.36 kg).

The largest among the penguins is the emperor penguin, which stands at 36 - 44 inches (91.44 - 111.76 cm) tall and weighing about 60 - 90 lbs (27.21 - 40.82 kg).

All the other species of penguins' sizes and weights are between the emperor penguin and little penguins.

The normal body temperature of a penguin is approximately 100° F (38° C).

Female and male penguins look alike and are not sexually dimorphic.

Their bone structure is thick, hard, and unique.

The eyes of penguins work better underwater than in the air.

African penguins have a pink patch around their eyes which helps them regulate their body temperature. 

Penguins do not have teeth and swallow their food whole.

Penguins have also been observed to swallow stones and pebbles. It is not know why they do this, but theories include help with buoyancy during diving, help to break up crustacean shells in their food, or even to alleviate hunger.

Penguins have a good grip since they have spines on the roof of their beak. this helps them to catch and hold their prey.

Penguins have spines on their tongues too.

Penguin chicks use their beaks to crack open the shell of their eggs when they are prepared to hatch. This hatching process can take up to three days.

Penguins are carnivores and find food in the sea. They hunt for shrimp, fish and squid.

Penguins that eat only fish are called piscivorous.

Penguins spend a lot of time caring for and maintaining their feathers to make them stay waterproof.

For extra protection on their feathers, penguins spread oil that is secreted from a special gland near their tail feathers.

Penguins lose all of their old feathers once a year; the process is known as 'catastrophic molt.'

The aerodynamic shape of penguins makes it possible for them to glide through the water as they swim.

Penguins can not fly but can leap as high as nine feet.

Penguin used their ability to leap when escaping from predators and also to help them climb in and out of the sea.

Penguins, when in a group, are called a colony.

From one-foot-tall blue penguins to Gentoo penguins, which can reach speeds of 22 miles an hour in the water, these birds are loved by all. Scroll down to learn more fascinating penguin facts.

Distribution And Habitat

Another interesting penguin fact is that penguins are considered marine birds, as penguins live up to 80 percent of their lives in the ocean.

 These flightless penguins live in the Southern Hemisphere.

Penguins generally live on islands and remote coastal regions with few land predators. They can be found on rocky and sandy shorelines as well as the more iconic habitats of ice and snow.

Larger penguins generally live in cooler regions. Smaller penguins are typically found in more tropical climates and temperate.

For warmth, smaller penguins live closer to the equator. These smaller birds would not be able to survive the more extreme weather conditions of Antarctica.

The larger penguins can withstand windy weather and extremely low temperatures, and are adapted to be able to survive the more extreme conditions closer to Antarctica.

Galapagos penguins, the second smallest of penguins, are the only penguin species found north of the equator, in the Galapagos Islands.

Crested penguins live in the sub-Antarctic region and Antarctic Peninsula and have yellow or orange tufts that extend from their heads. 

A few penguin colonies in Antarctica contain 20 million penguins.

Penguins nest, mate and raise their chicks in a place called a rookery. A rookery normallt has thousands of pairs of birds.

Big nesting colonies of 10,000 penguins or so can be formed by king penguins, and it is fascinating to see how each penguin keeps its neighbor at an exact distance but close enough.

The Emperor penguin reproduces in an environment which is extremely cold. Air temperatures may reach -40° F (-40° C), and wind speeds may reach 89 mph (144 km/hr.)

The rarest penguin in the world is the yellow-eyed penguin, which is found on the south-eastern coast of New Zealand and nearby islands.

The chinstrap penguin has a black band under its head, which makes it look as if it is wearing a black helmet.

Penguins And Humans

Penguins and humans are similar in a few ways.

Penguins communicate similar to that of humans.

Humans are social animals, and penguins are called social birds.

Penguins of the prehistoric era were very large, growing nearly as tall and heavy as humans, and they are typically not afraid of humans.

Humans are having a significant impact on penguins around the world. Penguin populations are in decline because of a number of issues, including habitat destruction, climate change, loss of food sources and predation by introduced species.

A few more interesting penguin facts are: penguins can make their nest using anything they find; they use even stones to make their nest. The parents, after the emergence of the chicks, take turns feeding their offspring with regurgitated food.


Do penguins cry?

Penguins cry through their nose and not via their eyes.

What do penguins do for fun?

Since penguins are social birds, they swim in a group for fun.

What does a penguin sound like?

Every penguin has a unique vocal call to find its mate and chicks. Penguin parents identify their offspring by unique calls that the chick will make.

What is a baby penguin called?

A baby penguin is called a chick.

What does a penguin eat?

Penguins do not have teeth, so they swallow fish, squid, shrimp and other food.

What is the biggest penguin?

Emperor penguins are the biggest penguins in height, from 36 to 44 inches (91.44 to 111.76 cm).

Are penguins friendly?

Yes, penguins are super friendly!

Do penguins lay eggs?

Yes, Penguins lay eggs. The king penguin and emperor penguin lays a single egg, whereas all the other species of penguin lay two eggs.

Do penguins have teeth?

Penguins do not have teeth.

How many years do penguins live?

The average life span of penguins is from 15 - 20 years. Little blue penguins live the shortest with an average of six years. Some species of penguin have lived for about 41 years.

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Written by Sridevi Tolety

Bachelor of Science specializing in Botany, Master of Science specializing in Clinical Research and Regulatory Affairs

Sridevi Tolety picture

Sridevi ToletyBachelor of Science specializing in Botany, Master of Science specializing in Clinical Research and Regulatory Affairs

With a Master's degree in clinical research from Manipal University and a PG Diploma in journalism from Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Sridevi has cultivated her passion for writing across various domains. She has authored a wide range of articles, blogs, travelogues, creative content, and short stories that have been published in leading magazines, newspapers, and websites. Sridevi is fluent in four languages and enjoys spending her spare time with loved ones. Her hobbies include reading, traveling, cooking, painting, and listening to music.

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Fact-checked by Lenin Kambam

Bachelor of Science specializing in Environmental Science

Lenin Kambam picture

Lenin KambamBachelor of Science specializing in Environmental Science

With a degree in Environmental Science from the D. M. College of Science, Lenin brings a unique blend of skills to the table. He has a solid background in sales and marketing, as well as extensive experience in the transcription industry spanning over a decade. Lenin is also committed to making a positive impact through his involvement in social and research projects.

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