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Penguin Fun Facts

  • The Water’s Fine! - Penguins spend nearly 75% of their life in the water hunting for food.

  • I’m All Ears. - While penguins don’t have visible ears, they do have very good hearing. An ear canal under their feathers allows these birds to hear on land and under water. Hearing is very important to penguins so they can zero in on their mates or chicks within a colony that could have 80,000 or more birds.

  • You Can Call Me Sweetheart. - Many penguin species are monogamous and may stay with the same mate for several breeding seasons. And penguins make very good parents. Both the male and female care for eggs and chicks.

  • Dressed For Success. - Penguins have a black and white tuxedo look for protection. From above, their black back blends in with the dark waters below. From underwater looking up, a penguin’s white belly tends to match the lighter sky.

  • Pleasantly Plump. - Most penguins are a bit on the chubby side for good reason. Their fat layer insulates them from the cold and provides an energy reserve when food is scarce.

  • On Your Mark, Get Set, Go! - When Adelie penguins hop off the ice and into the ocean, they accelerate from 0 to 16 mph in less than one second. That’s important to avoid leopard seals that swim at an average speed of 4 mph.

  • Ooh-La-La! - The color intensity of a macaroni penguin’s yellow feathers, its red eyes and beak help attract a mate. More vivid yellows and reds tend to indicate a bird’s overall health and disease resistance.

  • Time Me. - All 17 penguin species are remarkable divers without scuba tanks. Emperor penguins are the champion at holding their breath. They can stay under water for up to 15 minutes.

  • We don’t just waddle. - On land, penguins waddle, hop, and slide around on their bellies. They also have three ways to move through water: they swim near the surface; they “fly” underwater; and they sometimes swim along repeatedly popping out of the water like dolphins.

  • Can You Spare A Bite? – Gentoo chicks beg their parents for food by pecking on their beaks and making a special sound. The parent then opens up and regurgitates food into the chick’s mouth.

  • Was she happy? - The Adelie penguin was discovered by French Explorer Julies-Sebastien-Cesar Dumont d’ Urville when he visited the Antarctic in 1840. He named the penguin after his wife Adelie. No word on whether or not she approved.

  • Mr. Mom? – Rockhopper males stay on land with their chicks while the females go out fishing. Female rockhopper penguins will spend almost all day gathering food making an average of 44 dives an hour.

  • Dig This! – Archaeologists have uncovered fossilized penguins that date back 58 to 62 million years ago. That means somehow penguin ancestors survived after the mass extinction of the dinosaurs. The largest penguin fossils were as large as a human.

  • Deep Divers. – Several species of penguins routinely dive to depths between 300 and 500 feet. Scientists attached recording instruments on an Emperor penguin that once dove to an incredible depth of 1800 feet!

  • No Choppers? – Penguins don’t have any teeth, but they do have barbs on their tongue and throat. These barbs point backwards helping penguins swallow slippery fish, squid and krill.

  • Let’s Play Charades. – Penguins are very loud birds, calling to each other frequently throughout the day. Watch closely and you’ll also see a lot of body language. Penguins communicate by dipping their heads down and bobbing them back up as their flippers flap at one another.

  • Tiny Torpedoes. – All penguins are built for speed under water. They are very streamlined with strong flippers that can propel them through the water with ease. Some species are capable of short bursts of greater than 20 mph and can maintain speeds of 9 mph. They use bursts of speed to launch themselves onto steep rocky shorelines or icebergs.

  • Time To Chill Out. – Galapagos penguins live right on the Equator in a very tropical climate. To keep cool they hold their flippers out. This allows heat to escape their bodies. It also shades their feet, helping them to avoid sunburn.

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