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Penguins are birds that cannot fly but they can swim, waddle, hop and dive. While other birds have wings for flying, penguins’ wings have evolved into flippers to help them swim.  Because they spend more time in the water than on land penguins are good swimmers. They can swim fast, dive deep and stay under water a long time before they come up for air.   To keep them warm in icy water penguins have a thick layer of insulating feathers. Their body also produces an oil to make their feathers waterproof.

All penguins live near water in the Southern Hemisphere ranging from the cold waters of Antarctica to the tropical Galapagos Islands, close to the equator. No penguins live at the North Pole.

There are seventeen different species of penguins.  The largest penguins are the Emperor Penguins of Antarctica.  They can be up to 3ft 7 inches tall and weigh 75 pounds. Little Blue Penguins also known as Fairy Penguins, living off the southern coast of Australia, are the smallest penguins at only 16 inches tall and weighing 2 ½ pounds.

Most penguins live together in large groups made up of hundreds of birds. When everyone is “talking" at once it can get pretty noisy.  So each penguin has its own unique voice to help them find their mates and chicks in a big crowd. 

The penguin diet consists of fish, squid and krill. When they are able they will eat more than necessary to build up a layer of fat on their bodies.  This comes in handy when they are caring for their eggs and young chicks.  At that time they will often go for many days without eating. 

Penguins will lay one to two eggs at a time. Both the males and females will take turns caring for the egg.  When they hatch, both parents help with feeding and keeping the chick warm. 

Did You Know?

  • Their black and white “tuxedo” appearance is called countershading and works as camouflage both above and below the water.
  • When on land they often huddle together to keep warm and rotate positions to make sure that each penguin gets a turn in the center where it is warmer. 
  • A group of penguins on land is called a colony or rookery or waddle or huddle.  A group of penguins floating on water is called a raft.
  • Scientists can locate large penguin colonies from space, just by looking for dark ice patches stained by penguin poop.
  • January 20th is Penguin Awareness Day!


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