Penguin Poop: Everything You’ve Ever Wanted to Know

Written by Emmanuel Kingsley
Published: September 15, 2022
Image Credit robert mcgillivray/Shutterstock.com
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Penguins are a cute bird species located in Antarctica, South Africa, New Zealand, Argentina, and Namibia, among other places. They belong to the Order Sphenisciformes and the Spheniscidae family and they are scientifically named Aptenodytes forsteri. Many human beings consider them royalty thanks to their colorful heads and graceful walks among other cute characteristics. However, like most other animals, penguins also perform the not-so-royal act of pooping. In this article, we will be examining the penguin’s poop at length while touching on information you probably didn’t know before. Let’s roll. 

What Does Penguin Poop Look Like?

 penguin poop
The poop of a penguin is called guano.

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For starters, penguin poop is called “guano” and has definite colors and shapes. The penguin’s poop varies from white to pink; the poop turns pink when it eats krill and white when it eats fish. Interestingly, krill are pink because they consume phytoplankton. Penguins poop so much that the color visibly affects nesting sites. While the sight of a penguin pooping is quite rare, pictures from experts and researchers show that it comes out as a thick, long fluid. It’s like a milky substance of some sort. 

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How Do Penguins Poop?

penguin poop
Penguins have internal pressures significantly higher than the pressure the average human can exert when defecating.

Kyle Waters/Shutterstock.com

Like most other animals, penguins poop right from the direction of their hindquarters. While pooping, they often do a little wiggle presumably to force the poop out of their cloacae. Penguins have internal pressures significantly higher than the pressure the average human can exert when defecating. This pressure often results in the poop traveling farther than normal and many times, landing on other penguins. The feces can travel more than four feet away, making them “projectile poopers.”

Does Penguin Poop Smell?

Given that most humans consider penguins cute and refulgent creatures, it’s hard to imagine them pooping. It is even harder to imagine the poop from such beautiful creatures having a putrid and pungent smell. However, the truth is penguin poop has a stinking smell. It is even worse because they are social animals and they often poop in the same nesting area. Whatever chance you get to smell a penguin’s poop, you are likely going to be smelling a pile of it from different penguins, making it rather stinking and malodorous.

According to NPR, a smell similar to a penguin’s guano can be gotten from taking old cigarette tobacco, soaking it in ammonia, mixing it with rotten shrimp, and leaving it in the sun for a couple of days. You don’t even have to put yourself through all that trouble to know it’s not gonna smell nice. 

Sadly, the penguin’s poop smell affects their overall smell, making them cute yet musty creatures. 

How Often Do Penguins Poop?

penguin's chicks poops
Penguins poop every 20 minutes.

Alexey Seafarer/Shutterstock.com

Penguins are some of the most frequent “poopers” in the animal kingdom. They poop every 20 minutes and can go as much as 6-8 times per hour. The frequent pooping is attributed to their super fast metabolism. 

What Do Penguins Eat?

Since they are such notorious poopers, what do penguins feed on? Penguins are predominantly carnivorous and they feed on krill, small fishes, and squids. They also sometimes dabble in crabs, cuttlefish, and shrimps

Do Penguins Pee?

Like most other birds, penguins do not have a urethra or a urinary bladder, hence, they do not pee. The closest thing they do to peeing is excreting uric acid in a semi-solid paste form, which as you can probably guess, is discharged alongside the guano. 

However, penguins sweat, and their sweat glands are unusually located right above their eyes. Since they do not have the capacity to produce urine, any excess salt from their food or water is processed by the sweat glands and discharged through the beaks. 

Where Do Penguins Poop?

Gentoo Penguin
Because they poop every 20 minutes, penguins can be found pooping anywhere.

gary yim/Shutterstock.com

Penguins poop literally everywhere, even in their nesting sites. Unlike some other animals, they don’t try to go someplace far to do their business, they do it right wherever they are. And, before you indict them, remember penguins have to poop every 20 minutes. 

Do Penguins Eat Poop?

While it is true that penguins poop everywhere and on one another, they absolutely do not eat poop, under any circumstances. Even though they are often surrounded by a pile of poop, they never resort to actually eating the poop. Now, that’s pretty impressive, isn’t it? However, penguins make use of their own poop for other things. They would often create burrows by scraping out layers of poop and soil in an effort to protect themselves and their chicks from the temperature, environment, or any potential predators. 

Can Penguins Fart?

Since their diet lacks high amounts of fiber like we have in human foods, penguins do not fart. They have a distinct bacteria in their guts which does not produce any gas. Essentially, it would be grossly abnormal for a penguin to fart. 

Is Penguin Poop Dangerous?

Penguin poop is considered dangerous for the environment because it is capable of producing high levels of nitrous oxide, which has been recognized as a major contributor to global warming and climate change. Nitrous oxide is a greenhouse gas also known as laughing gas and it actually does induce laughter per the testimony of researchers. What this means is that if you ever find yourself on a penguin nesting site with lots of poop, it is very likely that you burst into unprovoked laughter. 

Is Penguin Poop Beneficial?

penguins
The penguin’s guano is also sometimes used as a fertilizer.

iStock.com/Leonid Andronov

Many researchers also consider the penguin’s uncoordinated style of pooping beneficial because it helps in identifying previously unknown colonies all the way from space. The penguin’s guano is also sometimes used as a fertilizer and there are reports that they were used to manufacture gunpowder in the past. 

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Sources
  1. Penguins International, Available here: https://www.penguinsinternational.org/2020/02/09/the-usefulness-of-penguin-poo/
  2. Natience, Available here: https://www.natience.com/do-penguins-pee/