Penguins are flightless marine birds that are only found naturally in the Southern Hemisphere. Unlike other birds, they have adapted fully to life in the water with features like dense bones, torpedo-like bodies, and flippers for wings. These birds are quite fascinating in how they have adapted to life in the frigid waters of the Antarctic ocean, and below are some fun facts on penguins, that showcase just how awesome they are.
Some General Fun Facts On Penguins
- Almost all penguin species apart from the Galapagos Penguin are found in the Southern hemisphere, and even though the climates of the Antarctic and arctic regions are similar, there are no penguins in the Arctic.
- There are 18 different species of penguins and they all have similar coloration with white bellies and black bodies.
- On land, they hop, waddle (walking in a swaying motion using short steps), or run with their bodies angled forwards.
On ice, they slide on their bellies, pushing with their feet, an action called tobogganing, which helps them cover long distances quite efficiently.
Look at this “spectacular” penguin walk in the video below 😉
- Penguins spend most of their time ashore to breed, and are mainly monogamous, with the females laying one or two eggs at a time.
- Penguins have succeeded in thriving in the Antarctic region, which means that for most penguins, they don’t suffer predation on land, only in the water.
Even though their habitats are far from human settlements they are still being impacted by human activities negatively: their numbers face pressures from extensive commercial fishing in the Southern Oceans which is impacting fish numbers, infectious avian diseases spread by tourists, and the effects of climate change. (these are not so fun facts on penguins, sorry)
Furthermore, let’s dive into more FAQs that people seem to have on penguins (and of course, also Africa related):
Are there any penguins in Africa?
The African Penguin or the Black-footed Penguin is the only penguin species found on the African continent.
This penguin is found only in the coastal regions of Southern Africa, from Hollams bird island on the central Namibian coast to Algoa Bay, off the Eastern Cape Coast of South Africa.
These penguins have a white belly, with a thick black band running across the top part of the chest, down the sides, and the legs.
Their distinguishing feature is the pink skin patches above the eyes, and each penguin has a distinct and unique pattern of black spots on its white chest.
Why do all penguins have the same coloration?
All penguin species have the same body coloration of a white front and black back, which is an impressive camouflage system.
Since penguins spend most of their time in the water, when looked at from above, their black backs blend in with the darker ocean waters, while from below, their white bellies blend in with the bright surface waters of the ocean.
This helps them hunt prey like krill, crabs, and squid and evade predators. Like leopard seals.
How do penguins not freeze to death?
- Many animals found in the freezing cold polar regions are huge, such as Polar bears, and seals.
This is due to the fact that the larger the animal, the smaller the surface area to volume ratio, and thus fewer areas to lose heat from.
Penguins in this region are particularly big, even the smallest Antarctic penguin species; the Rockhopper is heavy at 2.5kg (5.5lbs), while the largest penguin species; the Emperor penguin stands at 30kg (66lbs).
- They have a subcutaneous (under the skin) layer of fat that plays a vital role in keeping them warm. This layer of fat also serves a secondary role as a food store when times are lean.
- Penguins’ feathers aren’t like other birds’ feathers: they are short instead of large and flat, with an underlayer of fine woolly down.
When it gets really cold, they flap out their feathers and trap more air for better insulation. Their feathers are tightly packed, and they have some of the most densely packed feathers among birds.
- Another one of the fun facts on penguins is that their dark-colored backs, help them absorb heat from the sun.
- Just like humans, penguins’ appendages: flippers, and feet are poorly insulated and might be the areas at a lot of risk to the ice.
The muscles that operate these limbs are located in the deeper, warmer regions of the body. They are moved by tendons, attached to the bones of the limbs like a sort of remote-operated strings or puppets.
Even when it gets really cold, the feet and flippers can still be operated by the muscles.
Are penguins mammals or birds?
Well, penguins do lay eggs, so guess what? They are birds haha 🙂 They also have feathers and not fur.
Mind you though that they are non-flying birds, like the Ostrich, for example.
By the way: no, penguins aren’t fish either 😉
How are penguins such good swimmers?
Penguins are excellent swimmers as they spend about 75% of all their time in the water. Below are some facts that showcase why they are good swimmers:
- Their bodies are extremely streamlined, and their feathers are oil coated to ensure water glides smoothly over their bodies.
- Their flippers are used for accelerating inside the water, acting like propellers.
- They have short webbed feet that are set at the back of their bodies and help in changing direction much as a boat’s rudder would do.
- They will also be seen jumping out of the water much like dolphins. This act increases their speed and helps them breathe at the same time.
- They usually have air bubbles trapped within their feathers and as they ascend, they will force this air out as a tight stream, greatly reducing friction with water by about 80%.
Most penguins swim at an average of 5-7km/h (3.1-4.3 mph), and reach up to 15km/h (9.3mph) when chasing prey.
The fastest penguin species is the Gentoo penguin, with their speeds reaching 35 km/h (22 mph).
How deep do penguins dive?
Penguins sometimes dive deep, as their prey usually includes krill, fish, and squid. The maximum diving depth for most penguin species is between 52m (170ft) for the Galapagos penguin to more than 500 m (1640 ft) for the Emperor penguin.
One factor determining how far they dive is the fact that they hunt by sight, and will dive deeper during daylight hours than during the night.
They also have dense bones, unlike other birds which are hollow and allow them to dive easily.
How do penguins manage to dive for long periods of time?
Penguins can’t breathe underwater and will come to the surface to breathe. To stay long underwater, they reduce their metabolic rate (the amount of energy an animal uses over a specific amount of time), which allows them to function on low levels of oxygen.
They also have strong solid bones that allow them to withstand high water pressures of the depths.
They also have the ability to shut down internal organs that aren’t in use and reduce their heartbeats to as low as 15 beats per minute.
Why do penguins not get the bends?
When air-breathing mammals dive deep, the increased pressure forces nitrogen in the lungs to diffuse into the tissues, and if the nitrogen isn’t returned to the lungs before resurfacing, it can cause bubbles within the tissues and in the bloodstream which is dangerous, a condition known as decompression sickness or the bends.
Penguins have a unique way of diving that deals with this. When returning to the surface, they will swim for about 70% of the way, and then rely on their buoyancy the rest of the way.
As they near the surface, they will ascend at a greater angle reducing their speed and allowing the nitrogen to leave their tissue.
Do penguins drink salt water?
Penguins will drink salt water and they won’t fall sick as the excess salts are secreted from their bloodstream through a special supraorbital gland near their eyes.
But they don’t drink it willingly, when they are hunting fish, salty ocean water will be swallowed together by the fish, thus the need for a mechanism to remove these excess salts.
Why do penguins huddle together?
Emperor penguins breed and raise their chicks on the ice far from the ocean, and it can get pretty freezing.
They will huddle together as a form of protection against the cold, harsh, and windy Antarctic conditions.
This helps them conserve much-needed energy reserves, share warmth and survive the winter.
The interesting thing is that members of the hurdle will take turns, being on the cold, and harsh outside and hot inner sections.
What do penguins do for fun?
Well, penguins love to swim, and they will plop into the water for some fun exercises with other penguins.
Are penguins smart or intelligent?
I wouldn’t call a penguin the smartest animal on the planet, far from it.
But they do have special assets!
Penguins look al the same in a group, yet they can recognize each other out of thousands!
How does a baby penguin find its mother then? Well, their voices are all unique and they just keep shouting until they hear a familiar sound and then they walk right towards their parents!
How fast can Penguins walk?
Penguins are quite slow on land, and when compared to other animals their size, use up twice the energy. Their walk can be considered more of a back-and-forth motion known as waddle, and they reach speeds of up to 4km/h (2.5 mph).
Since their nesting sites are usually far inland, penguins can walk upwards of 60 km( 37 miles), in a day.
If you are too far away from the penguins to see them well, make sure to get a good pair of binoculars for your next penguin-watching tour!
My Final Conclusion.
I hope that you enjoyed this blog post on the top 13 fun facts on penguins, I sure loved writing about them! 😉
If you have any more questions about this topic, please feel free to ask them below in the comment section or join my social media pages or Facebook group for more fun facts and pictures about Africa!
I wish you happy travels!