10 Incredible Penguin Facts

Written by Emmanuel Kingsley
Updated: August 22, 2023
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Penguins are some of the most popular creatures ever. Even kids are very familiar with penguins thanks to the iconic Nickelodeon show “Penguins Of Madagascar.” Besides having a big kids’ show named after them, there are tons of other interesting facts about penguins that you probably still don’t know about.

 

Overview of 10 Penguin Facts

Below is a list with juicy details on some of these facts.

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1. Penguins Are Fundamentally Flightless Birds 

What Do Penguins Eat

Penguins can not fly.

©Giedriius/Shutterstock.com

When someone mentions a bird, what you think of, ordinarily, is a creature that can take flight. Well, here’s an interesting fact: penguins are flightless and their body parts are better suited for swimming than flying. 

You might ask, what about their wings? Well, their wings have evolved into flippers. And it would interest you to know that even though they cannot fly, they can jump as high as 9 feet between blocks of ice. They also slide on their bellies; a phenomenon known as tobogganing. 

Swimming also comes rather easy to them thanks to their feet which can also function as rudders to help their direction while swimming. 

2. Penguins Do Not Have A Single Tooth

penguin in water with open beak

Due to the absence of teeth, penguins swallow their prey instead of chewing them.

©iStock.com/anyaberkut

Penguins do not have any teeth at all which means they can’t chew their prey when they catch them. What they do instead, is, catch the prey with their bills and swallow it at once. They also have barbed tongues and throats that help with consuming fishes and crustaceans

Speaking of food, penguins often eat between 2 to 5 kg (4.4 to 11 lbs) of fish per day and they can even have more during their mating seasons. 

3. A Group Of Penguins Have Different Names

4 emperor penguins (Aptenodytes Forsteri) - walking on a beach

A group of penguins on land are a huddle or a colony.

©Phil West/Shutterstock.com

Penguins are highly social creatures and they have different names for their groups depending on the circumstances. For instance, a group of lions is called a pride; that’s like the single universal name for a group of lions. 

For penguins, however, a group of them in water is called a raft, due to their resemblance to the floatation device of the same name. However, when they are on land, a group of penguins is called a huddle or a colony. 

Some people even refer to a populous group of penguins as a waddle or a rookery. Even human musical bands don’t have that many names, do they?

4. A Penguin’s Tuxedo Doubles As A Camouflage

penguin swimming clear underwater with light flare

The coloring of penguins provide camouflage in water.

©nymphoenix/iStock via Getty Images

One of the coolest things about penguins is their tuxedo look- black top and white bottom. That look alone makes them an elegant and sophisticated species. Besides the cool look it affords them, the tuxedo also serves as camouflage

The black top blends with the ocean depths, and the white bottoms, when viewed from below, look like the sky’s reflection on the surface of the ocean. That combination has saved them from predators and will continue to.

5. Most Penguin Species Stick To One Mate For A Lifetime

Kissing Magellanic penguins in Patagonia, Chile, South America

Penguins find a mate for life.

©Sergey Didenko/Shutterstock.com

Mating is a reproductive activity by adult penguins, who reach maturity after 3-8 years of hatching. Once they reach the mature age, they find a mate they will be with for life. How cool is that? Plenty of human beings would do anything to have that. 

Guess what? Male penguins woo females by picking out a smooth rock and giving it to them.

Another study, however, revealed that some species, including the Emperor Penguin, only stay with one mate for a particular season. So, instead of having a life mate, they stay with their mates for one season before moving to another. So, while many of them have life mates, some, like the Emperor Penguin, just can’t deal. 

6. Penguins Are Generally Cool With Having Humans Around

Penguin feeding session at the mystic aquarium

Penguins are comfortable around humans.

©Grondemar / CC BY-SA 3.0 – License

Like we mentioned before, penguins are highly sociable, and not just within themselves. They are very comfortable with other land creatures, including humans, and do not immediately feel threatened by them. 

7. Penguins Have A Gland In Their Bodies That Produces Oil

Types of Big Birds

Penguins have oil glands.

©robert mcgillivray/Shutterstock.com

Thanks to evolution, penguins have a special uropygial gland, located at the base of their tails. This gland is also known as the preen oil gland. 

Scientists say the gland has antibacterial properties which help with the regulation of the penguin’s body heat when swimming. They also cover their feathers in the oil which helps them glide smoothly in the water. 

8. Giant Penguins Might Have Existed Millions Of Years Ago

The Great Auk (Pinguinus impennis) 

Great Auks were giant penguins that existed millions of years ago.

©Mike Pennington / CC BY-SA 2.0 – License

As of now, the height of penguins ranges from about 15 inches to 43 inches, while their weight ranges from 2 pounds to as much as 75 pounds. Some evidence revealed that there were pre-dinosaur penguins that weighed over 250 pounds and were up to 6.5ft tall. How about that for an interesting fact?

These penguins were known as “Great Auks” and their heights and weights were revealed by fossils believed to be 62million years old. If you can’t successfully imagine a penguin being that huge, go watch the critically acclaimed animation “Surf’s Up.” 

9. There Might Be Even More Penguin Species

African penguins during mating season

Currently, there are 18 species of penguin.

©Sergey Uryadnikov/Shutterstock.com

As of now, there are just 18 penguin species according to the International Union For Conservation Of Nature (IUCN) and other organizations. Scientists believe there may be more subspecies yet to be discovered. Further discovery has proven difficult over the years owing to the striking similarities between members of the species. 

Also, there have been arguments amongst experts about whether some penguin species actually belong to a different group because of their diets and habitats

10. Gentoo Penguins Swim Faster Than Other Penguin Species

Gentoo Penguins swimming underwater of the Southern Arctic ocean

Gentoo Penguins are the fastest of all penguins.

©ChameleonsEye/Shutterstock.com

Most penguin species swim about 4-7 miles per hour. Emperor penguins have top speeds of about 7.6 miles per hour and they can hold their breath underwater for about 20 minutes while driving up to 500 meters below the surface. 

If you found all that impressive, prepare to be mind-blown by the Gentoo Penguin‘s top speed which often maxes out at 22 miles per hour. For perspective, that’s almost 4 times better than Michael Phelps’ top swimming speed and about 3 times better than the Emperor penguin’s top speed. 

The photo featured at the top of this post is © vladsilver/Shutterstock.com


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