30 Fun Facts About the Irresistibly Cute Penguin
Penguins may be the world’s most likable bird. They’re always dressed to impress with their tuxedos, have an endearing waddle and engage in extremely entertaining behaviors.
Perhaps most importantly, penguins don’t look upon humans as their enemies — they’re tolerant of the human species. And if you’re holding some fish, penguins will gladly eat it from your hand. Cute penguins are also the can’t-miss residents at the zoo because seeing them makes people happy.
Penguins are exceptionally intelligent, and there are many interesting things about them. The more you know about penguins, the more you’ll appreciate them the next time you’re lucky enough to see some.
Yellow-eyed penguins are the most endangered penguin species.
Yellow-eyed penguins are easily identified by their pale yellow heads, the yellow iris in their eyes and the bright-yellow band running from their eyes to the back of their head. There are only approximately 4,000 left in the wild, and they’re found only in New Zealand and its outlying islands.
Fun fact: The yellow-eyed penguin is immortalized on the New Zealand five-dollar bill. While you can't keep it as a pet, there are plenty of even crazier looking birds that you totally can.
Penguins are masters at holding their breath.
Penguins need to go underwater to catch their food. They’re air-breathing animals, and their respiratory systems include lungs and air-sacs.
What’s impressive is how deep penguins can dive down and the length of time they can be underwater. Some penguins can hold their breath underwater for more than 20 minutes.
Penguins can’t bare their teeth.
You won’t know if a penguin is in a fighting mood from their teeth because they don’t have any.
Instead of chompers, penguins have spines on their tongues and on the roof of their beaks, which helps them get a good grip on their food.
Penguins mimic dogs in the way they cool off.
If a penguin gets too hot, they’ll pant like their canine friends to cool off. They’ll also fluff their feathers and push their wings away from their bodies to expel any extra heat.
If they’re huddling in a group, as penguins often are, they’ll break apart from the others so they can regulate their body temperature and get cooler.
Most penguins are monogamous.
When many penguins find their perfect partner, they tend to mate for life or until one partner dies.
However, some penguins are players and will mate with a new partner while the old one is still alive and living in the same colony. Cheating isn’t unheard of in a penguin community.
Penguins dress sharp for practical purposes.
The penguins use their coats as a way to camouflage themselves from predators by using a technique called “two-toned countershading.” This is when the top half or the part of the body that faces the sun is darker than the bottom part, which faces away from it.
Predators swimming above the penguins in the water can’t see penguins swimming because their black backs blend in with the murkiness of the ocean, and those predators beneath them can’t see penguins because of the white of the penguins’ underside blends in with the sunlit waters above them.
Penguins are great parents.
When a penguin egg is laid, the penguin parents don’t leave it on its own to hatch. The father plays the role of the incubator as he puts the egg on top of his feet to hatch.
For two months, he stays as still as possible and barely eats, as to not disturb the egg. Meanwhile, the female penguin is off securing food, so the baby penguin will have plenty to eat.
The penguin’s love language involves gift giving.
Male penguins don’t give the object of their affection diamonds or flowers but rocks to court them. The females use these rocks to build a nest.
Happy Valentine’s Day! Here is your bouquet of rocks.
Penguins poop — a lot.
Penguins have an amazingly fast metabolism; not only do penguins poop six to eight times an hour, but they also expel their poop bombs almost twice the length of their body.
Cleaning up the penguin habitat isn’t anyone’s favorite job.
Penguins can jump super high.
Don’t feel sorry for penguins because they can’t fly; their jumping skills more than make up for it. If they’re on dry land or ice, penguins do a kind of bouncy hop to propel themselves into the air, but it’s their water jumps that are the most impressive.
When they jump from the water to the air, they start by swimming super fast to create a cloak of bubbles that thrusts them upwards of 9 feet.
Penguins eat rocks.
Penguins don’t live on a diet of stomach stones, but they do swallow pebbles and rocks in addition to their food.
It’s believed that these stones aid in digestion as they help grind up the penguin’s food, not unlike how a mill grinds grain.
Penguins know the importance of good grooming.
A major part of the penguin’s day is spent taking care of their feathers. They don’t preen because they’re vain, but their feathers won’t stay waterproof if they don’t keep up with their grooming.
One of their grooming secrets is to spread the oil from a special gland near their tail all over their body.
Penguins don’t ride rafts; they are the rafts.
When in the water, a group of penguins is called a “raft,” but if they’re on land, they’re a “waddle,” and when they’re breeding, a large group is called a “rookery.”
And if none of those words work, you can always call a group of penguins a “colony” or a “huddle.”
Penguins have remarkable feet.
Over time, penguin feet have adapted to walk long distances, and some penguin species can even walk over 50 miles to get to their breeding ground.
But that’s not all; their feet are also mini-navigators that help them steer while swimming, similar to rudders on a boat.
Penguins believe in safety in numbers.
When they enter or leave the sea, penguins do so in large groups. By blending in with a crowd, they won’t stand out and catch the eye of a predator.
They’re also social creatures, and they enjoy spending time with their friends and hanging out.
Penguins have cool bone structure.
The bones in most birds are hollow and full of spaces for air, but that’s not so for penguins — their bones are solid.
Their denser bones and reduced buoyancy help them stay underneath the water for longer periods.
Formal dress is required to celebrate World Penguin Day.
Every year on April 25, people show their love for penguins across the globe by dressing in tuxedos, reading up on penguins, going to zoos, donating to non-profit organizations dedicated to helping penguins and their habitats, and featuring penguins on their social media accounts to help promote awareness.
There are many different types of penguins.
In fact, there are at least 16 different species of penguin, including the emperor penguin, king penguin, southern rockhopper penguin and macaroni penguin, to name a few.
But some argue that there are up to 22 species.
Penguins aren’t vegetarians.
They’re mainly carnivores and hunt their prey in the ocean. Penguins enjoy a diet of squid, fish, shrimp and crabs.
Instinctually, they know to adapt their feeding patterns to what’s available depending on where they are and the time of year.
Emperor penguins have the most expressive voices.
Research has shown that emperor penguins have more different types of vocalizations than other penguins.
This variety of vocalizations could be because they tend not to have fixed nest sites and rely on their voices to locate their offspring and significant others.
Penguins experience catastrophic molt.
A catastrophic molt sounds worse than it is. It means that instead of penguins gradually losing their feathers, they lose them all at once.
Without their feathers, penguins can’t go into the water to swim or fish. To survive the two to three weeks it takes for their feathers to grow back, penguins fatten up beforehand, not unlike how runners carb-loading before a big race.
The children’s book ‘And Tango Makes Three’ is based on a real story.
Same-sex couples aren’t that unusual in the penguin world. Two male chinstrap penguins, Roy and Silo, living in New York City’s Central Park Zoo, participated in mating rituals and attempted to hatch a rock as if it were an egg.
One of the zookeepers gave the couple an egg from another couple that had failed at hatching it. Roy and Silo were successful, resulting in the two of them raising a baby chick, Tango.
Penguins can drink seawater.
If a penguin lives somewhere where freshwater isn’t available, they can drink seawater. They have a gland located above the eye that filters their blood and traps the salt.
Once the salt is trapped, it’s mixed with a tiny amount of moisture in the gland and then travels down the nasal passage. The salt-laden drops drip out of the penguin’s nose, as if they have a bad case of postnasal drip.
You can’t tell a penguin’s gender by looking at it.
Male and female penguins look the same, which means they’re not sexually dimorphic. The one exception is the crested species, where the males are bigger and have larger bills.
However, you can differentiate between a young, immature penguin and a mature one since chicks and juveniles have slightly different markings and are duller in color.
Penguins are movie stars.
Don’t underestimate the star power of penguins. Whether it’s animated movies like “Happy Feet” or “Surf’s Up,” or live-action films such as “ Mr. Popper’s Penguins” or documentaries like “The March of the Penguins,” people can’t get enough penguin content.
When the penguins in “Madagascar” stole every scene they were in, they were even given their own television show, “The Penguins of Madagascar.”
Penguins don’t live on the North Pole.
You may have seen penguins and polar bears spending time together in movies, but you won’t see it in real life.
Penguins don’t live in the Northern Hemisphere, but you can find them on every continent in the Southern Hemisphere, from Antarctica to the Galapagos Islands.
Emperor penguins are impossible to ignore.
Emperor penguins are the largest of all penguin species. They can grow up to 4 feet and weigh as much as 100 pounds.
However, if a male emperor penguin takes care of an egg while it incubates, it’ll lose approximately 26 pounds during the 64 to 67 days it takes for the egg to hatch.
Penguins have their own version of sledding.
When penguins need to travel a long distance, they use their stomach as a sled and slide over ice and snow.
It’s known as tobogganing, and not only is it an effective way to travel, but it’s also a lot of fun.
Blue penguins are the smallest species.
There’s a reason blue penguins are also called little penguins; it’s because they grow to be only a height of 10 to 12 inches. These cute penguins are native to Australia, New Zealand and Tasmania.
Their distinctive blue-grey color goes from their head down their back, and they have blue flippers to match.
Penguins don’t have superior taste buds.
Penguins can only taste sour and salty foods. Anything with sweet, umami or bitter tastes is lost on penguins, as they lack functional receptors of those types of flavors.
They don’t seem to mind not having the ability to taste a wide range of flavors, though, as they simply swallow fish whole without chewing anyway.