Penguin Swimming! How Fast Can A Penguin Swim?

Rajnandini Roychoudhury
Mar 07, 2023 By Rajnandini Roychoudhury
Originally Published on Nov 22, 2021
Edited by Lara Simpson
Fact-checked by Shruti Thapa
Penguin swimming in water.
Age: 3-18
Read time: 7.5 Min

Penguin is a flightless bird native to the Antarctic region of the southern hemisphere.

Although we may assume that there is only a single species of penguin, you will be surprised to know that around 17-20 penguin species are found in the world. While most penguins live in the cold Antarctic region, the Galapagos penguins are the only exception living in the north of the equator.

Unlike other birds soaring up in the vast stretches of the sky, the penguins are birds that cannot fly in the air. They are found to walk wobbly on land or swim swiftly under the water. Penguins spend half of their lives on land and the other half in water.

Although this behavior is quite unlikely for a mammal, penguins have adapted their lives in the harshest climates adjusting their body temperature easily on the chilly lands and freezing waters.

Even if we are accustomed to seeing penguins walking clumsily on land, they are among the most distinguishing swimming birds on the planet. These birds have a feather-coated streamlined body that keeps them warm both on land and while they swim.

When the temperatures become extremely harsh, especially during Antarctic winters, these penguins are seen to assemble and move around in large groups to keep themselves warm and cozy.

Are you intrigued to know more about penguins swimming? Read on to learn more. Find more interesting information about are penguins endangered and are there penguins in the north pole here on Kidadl.

Penguin Swimming In Water

Penguins are excellent divers and great swimmers underwater. You might not see them flying in the air, but they become epic flying birds while diving into the ocean to obtain food. Their elongated body tapering towards the head and feet are well suited for freely moving inside the depths of the ocean.

While diving into the water, they keep their feet tucked together, helping them navigate through different directions. Their wings act as propellers, helping them move forward underwater at greater speeds.

A penguin dives into the water to hunt for its prey. The wings are called flippers that aid in increasing the swimming speed underwater. Penguins have an oil secreting gland that greases their feathers and insulates them underwater to withstand the freezing water temperature.

On average, a penguin swims as fast as 17 mph (27 kph) and can reach depths of more than 656 ft (200 m) to gather food. While most penguins swim underwater, some penguin species are also seen to come up the water's surface to breathe, a process known as porpoising, before diving into the deeper depths of the ocean.

Penguin Swimming Pool Game

If you love to see penguins swim, you can try playing these cute and exciting games available online or buy them offline. The Penguin 3D is a virtual multiplayer game meant both for kids and adults. Here you can dress up your penguin and make it explore various landscapes like caves, islands, mountains, and underwater.

Another fantastic game to play online is the Penguin Swim game at Gamesloon. Help the adorable penguins make their way to their destination, swimming through the water sitting at your desktop.

If you want to amp up the summer feels, then you can buy the penguin-themed inflatable swimming pool. Both kids and adults will love the aim-and-hit penguin games that come along with the inflatable pool.

Penguin Swimming With Killer Whale

Killer whales are known to be the most dangerous predators of penguins. The black and white feather coat of the penguins is a natural adaptation to escape from the eyes of the predators.

From the top, their black body merges with the dark ocean water, and from below, their white bellies blend with the sunlit layer of the ocean, camouflaging them completely.

Although chances of escape from the killer whale reduce considerably when the penguins dive into greater depths as they cannot hold their breath for long and give in to the chase of the whales.

In a recent incident in Antarctica, a penguin had jumped out of the sea onto a tourist boat to escape from the pursuit of the killer whales.

King Penguin Swimming Speed

This is the second-largest penguin species found around the South Atlantic and South Indian Oceans.

The average swimming speed on the King Penguins ranges between 4-6 mph (6.5-10 kph). Their body structure is slender, having distinct orange markings on its bill and neck. Often confused with the Emperor penguins because of the orange patches, both inhabit different areas.

Penguins standing in the snow.

Gentoo Penguin Swimming Speed

The Gentoo penguins are native to the Falkland Islands and southern Antarctic Peninsula. Out of all the penguin species found on the planet, the Gentoo penguins are the fastest swimming penguins. Their speed reaches up to 22 mph (35 kph) and can reach a depth of 656 ft (200 m).

They display a unique swimming technique called porpoising, where they leap out of the water to inhale air and propel their body forward, a feature not seen in the Emperor penguin and King penguin. Their leaps on-air are so high that it often exceeds their speeds of swimming underwater and are seen to be flying swiftly on air.

Rockhopper Penguin Swimming

Rockhopper penguins are the smallest penguins found in Antarctica. These crested penguins grow up to 2 ft (0.6 m), weighing only 5 lb (2.3 kg). Unlike many penguin species, these penguins swim at much slower speeds.

Their maximum swimming speed reaches up to 4 mph (6.4 kph) but can dive into greater depths in search of food. They are found to display a unique behavior of diving synchronously in pairs or more significant numbers to increase their overall preying efficiency.

Did you know?

Penguins have overlapping feathers that trap air and keep their bodies insulated, reducing drag by increasing buoyancy and keeping them afloat. The oil secretion gland greases the feathers, which aid in insulating them from the frigid waters.

Before leaping onto the ice floes from water, they release the trapped air bubbles from their feathers which cuts the drag and launches them speedily onto the ice surface.

Penguins of colder climate like the Emperor penguin has longer feathers with the highest feather density. In contrast, the northern penguins of warmer climates or the Galapagos penguin has shorter and less dense feather coat covering the penguin's body.

Unlike most birds, the penguins shed their feathers annually, losing them all at once.

They cannot swim or fish without feathers, and they fatten their bodies to keep themselves warm till the feathers grow back. The air trapped inside penguins' feathers serves as an oxygen cylinder, constantly supplying oxygen into its blood vessels through respiration, helping them dive deeper for longer to hunt.

The Emperor Penguins are the biggest and heaviest of all penguins, weighing up to 88 lb (40 kg). The Emperor penguins often obtain food from the benthic regions whenever midwater fish are in short supply.

Unlike other penguins, the Emperor penguins take in lesser air before a dive as it helps their body sink deeper into the water in less time, diminishing their buoyancy.

Adélie penguins dive and swim in synchronization in groups of two or three. This helps in cooperative hunting of the prey and protects the adélie penguin from predators like Leopard and Weddell seals.

African penguins found near Boulders Beach of Cape Town in South Africa is popular tourist attraction. They are known for their efficient navigating skills, allowing them to find their way back to their nesting site after months of staying in the sea.

A large group of penguins is called a huddle or colony. They give warmth to each other and conserve energy during the frigid winters.

Apart from being efficient swimmers, penguins can walk for over 60 miles (96.5 km) of sea ice to reach their breeding ground.

Male penguins woo the females by bringing pieces of rocks for them, which are later used for nesting during the breeding season. Penguins that breed in large colonies on land stains the ice into dark patches due to the vast accumulation of penguin poop.

Penguins swim so fast underwater that it is often said that they fly underwater. The Royal Penguin spends most of the year in the sea except in the breeding season when they stay on Macquarie Island for nesting their eggs.

Among all the other sources, krills are their most important prey. Penguins do not have teeth but have spiny jaws that help these carnivorous eaters bite, tear and chew the flesh of their prey.

The Yellow-eyed penguins are the oldest penguin breed discovered by man. These penguins living on the Southern Island off the coast of New Zealand are one of the noisiest and are hence called 'Hoihos' or 'noise makers.'

Penguins don't fall sick by drinking enormous amounts of salty seawater as the salts are excreted by a special gland situated under the eye. When the salty water trickles down up to their bill, they shake them off their face.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for penguin swimming, then why not take a look at can penguins fly or do penguins have teeth.

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Written by Rajnandini Roychoudhury

Bachelor of Arts specializing in English, Master of Arts specializing in English

Rajnandini Roychoudhury picture

Rajnandini RoychoudhuryBachelor of Arts specializing in English, Master of Arts specializing in English

With a Master of Arts in English, Rajnandini has pursued her passion for the arts and has become an experienced content writer. She has worked with companies such as Writer's Zone and has had her writing skills recognized by publications such as The Telegraph. Rajnandini is also trilingual and enjoys various hobbies such as music, movies, travel, philanthropy, writing her blog, and reading classic British literature. 

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Fact-checked by Shruti Thapa

Bachelor of Arts specializing in English

Shruti Thapa picture

Shruti ThapaBachelor of Arts specializing in English

With a passion for American, British, and children's literature, Shruti is currently pursuing a Bachelor's degree at Garden City University, Bengaluru. Her fluency in Nepali, Hindi, and Mandarin demonstrates her linguistic abilities and global perspective. In addition to her literary pursuits, she has a keen interest in non-fiction literature, aesthetics, early childhood education, and Egyptian history. Shruti's research paper 'Bringing Art Illustrations In Education And Pop Culture' showcases her proficiency in these areas and her dedication to academic excellence.

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