Do Penguins Have Feathers? How Does It Protect Them From The Cold? | Kidadl


Do Penguins Have Feathers? How Does It Protect Them From The Cold?

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Penguin lovers are widespread throughout the world, and contrary to popular belief, so is the bird!

Penguins are found in many places around the world, especially in temperate areas such as South America, Africa, and the South Georgia island. These birds have certain feather-related characteristics that are sure to blow you away!

There have been many occasions when someone has looked at an emperor penguin and thought it had fur! However, that is hardly true. Penguins do not have fur. In fact, they have feathers like most other birds. These flightless birds have adapted to the harsh conditions of their habitat in order to make sure that they survive. The fur-like coat that we see on a penguin today is actually a closely-knit coat of feathers. Although they do not allow this bird to fly, these feathers have their own function such as keeping the bird warm and making sure that the icy cold temperatures can be tackled.

Penguin feathers are usually short and help these birds in trapping air. A penguin can fluff up its feathers and trap air in them to create a rather fantastic insulation system. Keep reading for some more fascinating facts about penguin feathers!

If you enjoy reading this article, why not also check out what is a group of penguins called and do penguins fly here at Kidadl!

Penguin Feathers Are Waterproof And Windproof

Penguins are so adorable and fascinating that scientists and wildlife enthusiasts have spent years trying to figure out their anatomies. The many different penguin species around the world may have some features that vary greatly, but most of them have similarities when it comes to their feathers and warm-blooded bodies.

These non-flying birds are often thought of to only live in the northern hemisphere and near the ever freezing poles, but that is not true. There are many different species of penguins, and one of the most baffling facts is that the majority of the penguin population of the world actually lives in temperate or tropical climates such as in places near the equator. However, whatever be the climate of the habitat, most penguins have a rather impressive feather density and can keep themselves warm in the chilliest of weather. This flightless bird species is often mistaken to have fur instead of feathers. Understandably, this notion arises from the fact that penguin species such as the emperor penguins are neighbors to polar bears. However, unlike the polar bears in their neighborhood, penguins do not have fur. This is because fur would definitely be of use to them when it came to being warm when on the surface of the land, but if they had to take a dip in the ocean, the fur wouldn't be able to endure and maintain the warmth of the body. Feathers, on the other hand, do not weigh penguins down and hence are the clear choice from the point of view of natural evolution. Penguins' feathers are specialized in many ways. Their feathers are windproof and waterproof! A penguin's body is densely covered with many short, broad, and flat feathers, which help the animal in making sure that not much heat is lost in the unyielding climatic conditions.

A higher feather density is favorable since it allows these birds to maintain insulation. Insulation essentially means that the heat of the body is not lost when the outside temperatures drop. It is a little-known fact that penguins actually have the highest feather density amongst most of the birds of the world. They are reported to have at least 100 feathers per square inch! Their feathers are also equipped with features such as fluffing up or flopping down. When the cold winds start to blow, a penguin would typically fluff up its feathers in order to trap more air in them and thereby maintain larger amounts of insulation. On the other hand, there is no blood flow towards the tail feathers of a penguin's body and hence, the fact that a penguin's tail is always in contact with the snowy ground is never an issue. Since there is no blood flow, there is no loss of heat either!

When it comes to being water-resistant, penguin feathers have an immense role to play. It is well understood that if penguins did not have dense feathers, the cold water would have gotten to their skin every time they took a dip in the water to find some fish or krill. This would have been very tough to survive through since we can very well imagine how cold the water near the poles would be. To tackle this issue, the dense feathers come to play. The feathers are so densely packed in penguins that the water never actually reaches the penguin's skin. In addition to this, many penguin species also have a thick layer of fat which helps in the maintenance of body heat and temperature.

To list out a few more features related to penguin feathers that make them amazing, a penguin's coat and its tuxedo-like appearance are actually devised in a way that it camouflages a bird when it takes a dip in the ocean or sea ice to eat krill. The white belly merges with the light when a larger predatory fish like killer whales looks up and cannot understand that a penguin may be swimming. Predators like leopard seals often keep an eye on the surface of the water to look for possible prey and in such cases, the black dorsal side of the penguin's body completely camouflages with the color of the ocean. In this way, the wobbly, adorable bird is able to save itself from many sticky situations!

Adélie penguins have a red-colored bill!

Species Of Penguins

There are various species of penguins found across the world.

Emperor penguins are one of the most popular species in the world. These penguins are only found in Antarctica and lay eggs in large colonies. Emperor penguins are characterized by their black-colored tuxedo, which also extends to the neck. There is an orange or yellow patch on each side of the head, which makes emperor penguins loom quite regal and elegant! One of the most interesting facts is that the male emperor penguin cannot be told apart from its female counterpart unless a DNA test is conducted. This is because there are hardly any physical properties that set these birds apart!

King penguins are also similar in terms of appearance but the orange patch on their bodies is much larger and more prominent in comparison to emperor penguins. King penguins are mostly seen around the sub-Antarctic islands and in islands near the southern ocean. A king penguin is smaller and lighter when seen in comparison to an emperor penguin. Although, it is quite understandable that people often get confused between the two species because of how similar they are!

The Galapagos penguins are found in the Galapagos islands and hence the name! To spot a Galapagos penguin, however, is quite rare since the population size of these birds is so small and limited to a small area. These penguins are hunters and prefer living in areas where there is plenty of food.

Macaroni penguins have a rather funny name! These are usually land penguins are and found near the Antarctic and subantarctic peninsula.

Yellow-eyed penguins are some of the smaller penguins of the world. They have dense bones and are usually found in places such as New Zealand. Factors such as climate change and pollution, however, have reduced the population of these penguins rather drastically.

Rockhopper penguins are found in the islands of Antarctica and this little penguin species is quite famous for its rather unconventional looks. These penguins, along with gentoo penguins, and macaroni penguins form penguin colonies in the Falkland Islands.

The Adélie penguin species is also quite popular and found only in Antarctica. One of the features which set these penguins apart is that Adélie penguins have a red-colored bill.

Brush-tailed penguins are also rather famous for their special tails which almost look like feet at first sight. To add to the kind of penguins which are named like royalty, the royal penguins of the sub-Antarctic islands are also quite regal-looking.

The chinstrap penguins, African penguins, and crested penguins have rather unconventional appearances. These penguins are usually short and stubby and have a feather pattern that is not usually seen. Some of these species are also endangered, which is why they have become a rather rare sight.

The Spread Of Feathers Over A Penguin's Body

Penguins have a rather high feather density, which means that there are a large number of feathers that emerge from a single pore.

This is because adult penguins and penguin chicks often have to tackle the harsh weather conditions of the Antarctic and sub-Antarctic islands. Each penguin that lives in the more cold regions of the world can be expected to have hundreds of feathers emerging from the smallest chunk of its skin. This helps in insulation and in preventing water from getting to the animal's skin.

Busting Myths About Penguin Feathers

One of the most common myths about penguin feathers is that they do not exist.

People are often of the opinion that penguins have fur, which is not the case. If penguins had fur, they would definitely do well when on land, but would suffer greatly in water bodies.

Penguin feathers are neither long nor fluffy. Their short and stubby feathers allow a penguin to be able to survive its living and hunting habitats.

Penguins Shed Their Feathers

Like all other birds, even a penguin's feathers undergo wear and tear. Hence, their weather-beaten feathers also require to be renewed and refreshed. Most penguin species molt or shed their feathers once a year, which is typically after the breeding season. However, there are some species such as the Galápagos penguin, which molt twice a year.

Penguin feathers are worn out due to many reasons such as weather, contact with water, and constant rubbing. Understandably, penguins that live near the South Pole or sub-Antarctic islands huddle together to maintain warmth. The warm-blooded birds often rub against each other when the temperature falls too drastically, and hence, damage their feathers in the process.

One of the most interesting facts surrounding molting in penguins is that penguins usually stop eating during the shedding season. This is because these flightless birds wouldn't be able to withstand the coldness of the water if their feathers weren't present. In an absence of feathers, the water would come in direct contact with the bird's skin and therefore freeze it to death. Hence, many species of penguins over-eat right before the shedding season is about to begin. In this way, they are able to sustain life throughout the few weeks when the body is still growing a fresh set of beautiful feathers!

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for do penguins have feathers then why not take a look at do penguins have fur, or rockhopper penguin facts?

Written By
Shirin Biswas

<p>With a degree in English from Amity University, Noida, Shirin has won awards for oratory, acting, and creative writing. She has a wealth of experience as an English teacher, editor, and writer, having previously worked at Quizzy and Big Books Publishing. Her expertise lies in editing study guides for children and creating engaging content.</p>

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