Penguins are some of the most adorable birds in the animal kingdom, mostly due to how cute and cuddly they are. Seriously, who in their right mind doesn’t like these awkward and highly sociable creatures? Entertaining to look at, there are so many things most people don’t know about these flightless birds, so we’ve taken it upon ourselves to find out as much as we can about penguins, and we found out plenty. So sit back and enjoy some 25 or so, really cool facts about penguins, some of Mother nature’s cutest creations.
Penguins pant like dogs
Yes, in order to keep from overheating, penguins sometimes pant like dogs to cool off. Due to their ability to handle very cold outside temperatures, their bodies sometimes have difficulties regulating their own. When this happens, they either pant like dogs to cool off or ruffle their feathers while stretching their wings as far away from their bodies as possible.
People used to eat penguins
In the not so distant past, people used to eat penguin eggs while hunting the adults for their feathers, skin, and oil. People also used penguin droppings as a fertilizer to grow crops. Interestingly enough, penguins use their droppings to make nests for their eggs.
They are flightless birds
Penguins are one of the 40 species of flightless birds in existence. In this respect, they are similar to kiwis, ostriches, or emus, apart from the obvious difference that they live in a much colder climate. Interestingly enough, most flightless birds live in the Southern Hemisphere.
Penguins swim very fast
Although they walk at a maximum speed of 2.3 mph, penguins can swim at speeds as high as 15 mph. They can also swim between 5 and 6 miles per hour without taking any breaks. While not impressive by marine standards, it is quite impressive given their relatively small figure.
Ancient penguins were huge
Even though most penguins are small nowadays, scientists believe that prehistoric penguins were in fact, much larger. As a matter of fact, prehistoric penguins were as tall and heavy as human beings. This being said, penguins evolved to be much smaller over millions of years, mostly due to their inability to catch large quantities of fish.
They have more feathers than most birds
On average, birds have between 60 to 65 feathers per square inch, whereas penguins have around 70 feathers per square inch. The Emperor Penguin, for example, has the most of any bird, which is around 100 feathers per square inch.
A penguin colony is called a ‘rookery’
Penguins come ashore during the breeding season and nest in large colonies called rookeries. These rockeries can include hundreds or even thousands of penguins and can stretch out over hundreds of square kilometers. What’s interesting is that when penguins return from fishing trips out into the ocean, they come to the exact place they occupied before.
They are very social
While some of them may prefer to dive for food by themselves, most penguins swim and feed in groups as part of coordinated dives. They are also some of the most social birds in the world, all species being colonial creatures.
Penguins preen their feathers constantly
In order to ensure good waterproofing and insulation, penguins have to preen their feathers frequently. They preen with their bills using the oils secreted by a gland near the base of their tails. They do this for several minutes in the water by rubbing their bodies with their flippers.
They live between 15 and 20 years
Wild penguins can live between 15 to 20 years if they somehow manage to evade predators for so long. In captivity, penguins have been known to live on average around 17 years. interestingly enough, penguins spend 75% of their lives in the water.
Penguin eggs are very small compared to their weight
Compared to most birds, penguin eggs are much smaller as far as weight is concerned. Furthermore, the shell of a penguin’s egg constitutes 10 to 16% of its overall weight on average. This is believed to provide extra insulation against the cold climate.
They are carnivores
Penguins eat nothing but meat, their diet including krill, squid, and fish. Large colonies of penguins consume tremendous amounts of fish, leaving a large dent in an area’s fish population. For instance, the Adelie colony which contains about 2.3 million pairs can consume up to 1.5 million metric tons of krill, 115,000 metric tons of fish, and around 3,500 metric tons of squid every year.
Female penguins sometimes kidnap chicks
A quite sad yet interesting facts about penguins is that female Emperor penguins sometimes kidnap unrelated chicks if their baby dies. Unfortunately, they usually neglect their newly ‘adopted’ chick which most of the time starves to death.
They have excellent hearing
Despite their lack of visible ears, most penguin species have excellent hearing on which they rely to identify distinct calls when returning to the breeding grounds. like we already established, penguin breeding grounds can be very crowded and if not for their good hearing, penguins might have issues locating their partners.
Penguins are not afraid of humans
Due to the fact that penguins have no predators on solid ground, they show no fear when interacting with human beings. Seeing how most of their predators lurk in the cold ocean waters outside their colonies, penguins will often exhibit not only lack of fear when interacting with humans but also curiosity.
They have no blubber to keep them warm
Unlike most sea mammals which rely on blubber to stay warm when swimming through the cold water, penguins manage to trap a layer of warm air next to the skin in quite a cleverly fashion, a layer of air that gets warmed up by the penguin’s muscular heat once they start swimming around.
Couples take turns parenting their young
Unlike most species who reserve hunting and parenting to each individual of the couple, penguins take turns parenting their young chicks whenever their mate goes out hunting. They do this for several months until the chicks are strong enough to hunt their own food.
Fat penguins are more attractive
Interestingly enough, female penguins prefer chubby mates over thinner ones. This is because sometimes female penguins go hunting for weeks at a time, during which period the male has to survive on its own fat reserves while looking after the chick.
Penguins can ‘boost’ themselves like rockets
When swimming, penguins use a special ‘bubble boost’ to propel themselves like rockets. By fluffing their feathers, they release air bubbles which reduce the density of the water around them, boosting their swimming speed considerably. As a result, penguins swimming at full speed can sometimes propel themselves 7 feet above water.
There are 18 species in existence, 13 of which are going extinct
Even though some species are thriving through numerous colonies, 13 out of the total 18 species of penguins have declining populations. It is believed that unless conservation measures are taken within the near future, at least 5 of them will face extinction over the next 40 years.
Penguins have been around for 60 million years
Scientists believe that penguins have been around for at least 60 million years, meaning that their earliest ancestors survived the mass extinction of the dinosaurs somehow. It is also believed that early penguins were much larger than the ones we see today, almost as tall as human beings and about the same weight.
They give gifts to potential mates
In order to attract mates, male penguins sometimes give pebbles or small stones to female penguins they are interested in. Different species employ different wowing techniques, however, each being specific to their surroundings. For instance, some species of penguins will sing in order to attract partners while others will showcase their nest-building capabilities.
They see better underwater
While their vision is relatively good when waddling about, it is only when they submerge that they get to fully use their eyesight. Over time, penguins evolved a way to protect their eyes from the light outside by taking in less light than they should, were they to actually need to pay attention when out of the water. Seeing how all of their predators live underwater, it is only natural that they would want to be able to see much clearer when submerged.
Sometimes they eat stones and pebbles
Believe it or not, but penguins often eat small stones and pebbles with their food. Scientists believe that by doing so, they are not only increasing their weight when diving underwater, but also helping themselves digest food better. This is because penguins, like many other birds, sometimes need help grinding their food to help with the digestion process.
Penguins drink salt water
Penguins are among a few creatures that can effectively filter salt water. They have a special gland (the supraorbital gland) which allows them to remove sodium chloride from the bloodstream, thus removing all the toxicity associated with drinking salt water. After being removed from their bloodstream, salt is then excreted as brine through the penguin’s bill, giving the appearance of a runny nose.