The Ultimate Guide to Penguins

Penguins in Cape Town, South Africa by the sea. Learn more about penguins by reading our ultimate guide

What is a penguin?

The word penguin was first found in the 16th century. It should be noted that the etymology of the word Penguin is still being debated. So, we don’t know where exactly the word ‘Penguin’ comes from. However, in this penguin guide, we will learn a lot about penguins and their habitat. Penguins belong to the Spheniscidae family; they are a group of flightless birds who are also aquatic.

Almost all penguins species are exclusive to the Southern Hemisphere; there are only one species i.e. Galapagos penguin which belongs to the northern side of the equator. Penguins are aquatic, torpedo-shaped, they have a dark and white plumage. A penguin’s wings are evolved into flippers which helps them to swim. Penguins feed on sea life creatures like fish, krill, squid, etc. which they catch while swimming. Penguins are known to spend almost half their lives on water and the other half on land.

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Where is a penguins habitat?

Since penguins are aquatic birds, most of the penguins live in the ocean in the Southern Hemisphere. If you hear that all of them live in Antarctica, it is a myth. Penguins are found in almost every continent in the Southern Hemisphere. Also, they don’t live in a cold climate only. Example: Galapagos penguins live on the tropical islands.

What does a penguin’s diet involve?

Penguins are carnivorous creatures; they eat all kinds of sea animals like krill, fish, and squid. They eat so much to the extent that it hampers the region’s food supply. Not all the species eat that much.

A species of penguins known as the Adelie penguins can eat up to 1.5 million metric tons of krill, 3,500 metric tons of squid and 115,000 metric tons of squid, every year. Some penguins like the yellow-eyed penguins are very determined when it comes to looking for food; they will go very far, dive very deep into the sea (almost 120 meters), not only that, they go this deep up to 200 times each day. All of this, only for food.

Penguins swimming through the ocean together

What are the different types of penguins?

The different types of penguins are listed below:

  • Emperor Penguin
  • King Penguin
  • Southern Rockhopper Penguin
  • Macaroni Penguin
  • Eastern Rockhopper Penguin
  • Northern Rockhopper Penguin
  • Fiordland Penguin
  • Snares Penguin
  • Little Blue Penguin
  • Royal Penguin
  • Erect-crested Penguin
  • Yellow-eyed Penguin
  • Adelie Penguin
  • Chinstrap Penguin
  • Gentoo Penguin
  • Jackass Penguin
  • Humboldt Penguin
  • Magellanic Penguin
  • Galapagos Penguin

How do penguins mate and give birth?

A colony is what a group of penguins called. When it’s time for penguins to breed, they come to the shore and form large colonies which are called rookeries.

Almost all the species of penguins are monogamous; they mate with only one penguin during the mating season. Even after the mating season, they continue to live and mate with each other. After a penguin turns three, which extends up to eight in many cases, the penguin is ready to mate. Most of the penguins breed during spring and summer.

The male penguin typically begins the mating ritual; he goes on to pick a suitable nesting site then approaches a female penguin.

After the penguins are done mating, the female emperor penguins lay a single egg. Rest of the species lay two eggs. The parents take turns when it comes to holding the eggs in between their legs to give it warmth, in their nest.

However, the female emperor penguin places the egg on the male emperor’s feet to give the egg warmth from the fat folds. She then moves out to hunt for a few weeks.

When the eggs are all ready to hatch, they come out of their shell by using their little beaks. This takes time; it can take up to 3 days. After the baby penguins come out of their shell, the parents, as usual, take turns in feeding them with food. The parents are known to find their babies by the unique sounds that their baby makes.

A group of penguins with a chick

Are the penguins endangered?

If we go through the Red List of Threatened Species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, around five species of penguins are endangered. These species are the Northern Rockhopper Penguin (Eudyptes Moseleyi), the Erect-crested Penguin (Eudyptes sclateri), the Yellow-eyed Penguin (Megadyptes Antipodes), the Galapagos Penguin (Spheniscus mendiculus) and the Jackass Penguin (Spheniscus Demersus). The rest of the species are not safe either, almost every other species are either vulnerable or threatened.

What are the threats to the penguins?

Environmental and climate change is a threat to penguins. Penguin populaces have diminished by about 80 percent in a few regions, and most of the researchers concur that rising temperature because of environmental change is the essential reason.

In Antarctica, home to the celebrated emperor penguin, the yearly ocean ice melting season has reached out by as much as three weeks in late decades. Less ice implies less territory for penguins and the loss of basic sustenance, for example, shrimp-like krill, which rely upon polar ice to give birth.

The penguin that is right now most threatened by environmental change is the African penguin. Most African penguins live on islands off the bank of Africa and feed on a rich supply of anchovies and sardines that pursue a close-by flow of cold water. As the seas heat up, this stream is moving further far from their island home. These penguins will swim up to 25 miles from their homes, so if the present moves a lot further, they won’t most likely achieve their sustenance source.

Notwithstanding an unnatural weather change and natural predation by sharks, orcas, panther seals, ocean lions and hide seals, different dangers to penguins incorporate effects on living habitat because of oil slicks, pesticides, development, pulverization of natural surroundings due to presented herbivores, rivalry with people for nourishment and illicit egg collecting.

This article aimed to provide a penguin guide and highlight the reasons for the loss of habitat of penguins and the threats to the penguin species.

Penguin Frequently Asked Questions

We’ve gathered some of the most asked penguin related FAQs in one handy place for you. Got another penguin question for us? Drop us a line on our Twitter profile. We love penguins and everything about them, so we’ll be happy to help. If we don’t know the answer to your question, we’ll make sure we find someone who does! One of our friends is even a curator at a very well known zoo in the UK, so we’re sure that he’ll know all the answers to your questions. Anyway, here are the most popular questions answered:

Penguin swimming through the ocean

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Penguin comparisons and differences by breed

Penguins breeding on or near continental Antarctica
Penguin species Estimated population Weight Height Breeds Live now
Adélie penguin 3.79 million breeding pairs 5kg - 11lb 70cm - 27.5 inches November to February Antarctic continent & sub-Antarctic islands
Chinstrap penguin 5 million breeding pairs 4.5kg - 10lb 68cm - 27 inches December to March Sub Antarctic & Antarctic islands and Antarctic Peninsula
Emperor penguin 238, 000 breeding pairs, 595, 000 individuals 30kg - 66lb 1.15m - 3.8ft April to December On sea-ice in continental Antarctica, most southerly of all species of penguins
Penguin breeds found furthest south in the sub-Antartic islands
Penguin species Estimated population Weight Height Breeds Live now
King penguin 2 to 3.2 million breeding pairs 515kg - 33lb  95cm - 3.1 ft Starts November to January Sub-Antarctic islands
Macaroni penguin 9 million breeding pairs 4.5kg - 10lb 68cm - 27 inches December to March Sub-Antarctic islands
Rockhopper penguin 1.8 million breeding pairs 2.5kg - 5.5lb  55cm - 21.6 inches December to March Falkland islands and sub-Antarctic islands