Penguins: 6 Interesting Facts
Penguins are one of the more goofy looking birds, with their round shape and adolescent waddle. Don’t underestimate them though, these bulbous creatures are talented swimmers and fierce protectors of their territory and their young.
If your only experience with these fascinating birds comes from watching Happy Feet, here are some interesting facts about them!
Hidden in Plain Sight- How Does a Penguin Hide From Predators?
As most of us are aware, penguins are land dwellers but they still have an incredible propensity for swimming and hunting in the water. The black and white pattern of their feathers is a defense mechanism, hiding them between ocean waves from potential predators in both the water and in the snow.
The white portion on the underbelly offers them camouflage from sharks and leopard seals. When looking up from the deeper parts of the sea, sharks are just barely able to make out the shape of a penguin belly, if at all. When peering down on the water from a distance, a seal would struggle to identify the jet black vessel darting through the waves.
Penguins Aren’t Fat, Justness Big Boned
If you’ve ever wondered how birds are able to withstand the weight of their bodies as they fly about, you’re not alone! They’re able to take flight because their bones are hollow and far less dense than that of the average mammal, aside from the bat. Penguins and ostriches, on the other hand, have compacted, heavy bones that keep them grounded.
For the penguin, this is an essential part of their physiological build, without this characteristic they wouldn’t be able to dive deep down into the water to catch fish. The size of these rather large birds sometimes leaves us wondering how they don’t drown! For starters, they really aren’t as heavy as they appear, even Emperor penguins only weigh around 50 pounds on average.
What really keeps them moving are their feathers! When swimming, penguins puff their feathers outward; if you’ve ever seen a bird take a bath you have an idea of what it looks like. In between each plume, air pockets are formed, creating bubbles that work similarly to a competitive swimsuit.
With this “swimsuit” of bubbles, the penguin is able to glide with ease, catching sardines and escaping from potential predators. Penguins actually spend more than half their lifetime in the water, about 75%.
Male Penguins Help Females Incubate Their Eggs
Where the female is normally the primary caretaker in most of nature, there are some exceptions. Horsefish, sandpipers, and you guessed it, penguins are some of the most committed fathers out there! Once their partner has laid an egg, the male penguin will assist her in taking turns to keep the egg warm while one parent goes out to feed.
This cycle continues even after the chick is born! Baby penguins are born with several layers of thick, fluffy feathers, however, they don’t quite have the blubber their adult counterparts have.
The mother and father will continue rotating between going out to sea to feed and bring back food, with keeping their new chick warm. As they get older, their parents will eventually begin to leave them on their own; baby penguins compensate for this change by huddling with other chicks that are still maturing.
Penguin Aren’t Going Anywhere...Seriously, They Don’t Migrate!
While you might be able to find variations of squirrels, snakes, rabbits, and a plethora of other species across the globe, you’ll only find penguins in the Southern Hemisphere.
Currently, there are a small total of 17 known penguin species on theentire planet! Sadly, our changing climate has altered their natural habitat and several different kinds of penguins are at risk for extinction. Specifically, 85% of the Northern Rockhopper species is secluded in the Tristan de Cunha and Gough islands.
Being that the Rockhoppers are so isolated to this tiny portion of the world, man-made disasters and natural storms have inhibited their ability to reproduce. Other species such as the Erect-Crested, Australian, New Zealand, and Emperor penguins only have populations of about 3,400 to 150,000 left.
That being said, you likely won’t get a chance to see a live penguin in person unless you visit the zoo or make a trip on over to the Southern Hemisphere.
Penguins Enjoy Heat? Yep, You Can Find Them in the Galapagos and Africa
The thought of a penguin in general immediately creates a mental picture of snow, ice, and a group of large birds huddling together to stay warm. However, this isn’t always the case for the Galapagos and African species!
They get the luxury of a warmer summer and a “winter” season of about 75 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit. You’d think it would be easy to survive in such a mild, pleasant climate.
Sadly, the Galapagos penguin falls under the endangered category as well. Due to overfishing, the primary diet of anchovies and sardines are running in short supply.
The lack of food available is causing a rather quick decline; the current population is about 1,200. Being in a tropical climate also means dealing with storms and flash flooding on a regular basis and creates a greater challenge for survival.
Penguins are Piscivores, They Love Seafood Cuisine!
Piscivores are carnivores with a primarily seafood diet, and of course, a hunter with specific prey needs to have the biological tools and capabilities to successfully capture their meal. This physical adaptation of penguins includes sharp talons that are able to squeeze and hold fish between their feet.
Speaking of feet, the penguin’s legs also sit further back on their bodies to compensate for the extra weight on their bellies. This makes it much easier to wade through shallow water.
If you’re concerned about the survival and welfare of these adorable creatures, there are plenty of organizations you can donate to. Make a difference by offering help to charities like the Penguin Foundation. Their “Adopt-a-Penguin” and “Penguin Pal” program provide the donator with an adoption certificate along with a weekly newsletter.
The Penguin Foundation brings education to classrooms as well, so if you love these special birds and want to help them, a dollar or two makes a difference.