Hello there, SafariFans! Quick question: Are you aware of penguins? No? Well, today’s the day to change that. That’s right, January 20th is Penguin Awareness Day! In honor of this day, we thought we’d give you some interesting Penguin Facts to help you to become more aware of these dapper seabirds.
- While there are many flightless birds, including the ostrich, the cassowary, and the kiwi just to name a few, penguins make up the largest family of completely flightless birds, with all 17 known species lacking the ability to fly.
- You might imagine that a penguin would make a tasty snack for a polar bear, but the two would never meet in the wild. Polar bears live in the northern hemisphere, while almost all penguins dwell in the southern hemisphere. The only exception is the Galapagos penguin, which still lives far south of any polar bear’s habitat. The main predators of penguins are the killer whale, the leopard seal, and the sea lion.
- Most penguins look as though they’re heading to a fancy party, with their tuxedo-like coloration of black on the back, with white on their underside. There’s a good reason for this – the color pattern actually helps them hide from predators. Dark color above with light below is known as countershading, and helps these birds blend in when seen from above and below by a hungry seal or killer whale.
|Emperor Penguin Chick||Emperor Penguin with Chick||Emperor Penguin|
- Today, the largest penguin is the emperor penguin, which can grow to four feet tall and weigh nearly 100 lbs. However, prehistoric penguins could grow much larger. The biggest extinct penguin was the colossus penguin, which lived around 35 million years ago, and could grow to nearly six feet tall and weigh over 200 lbs.! This is larger than an average adult human being.
- Many species of penguin practice long-term monogamy, meaning the same penguins pair up with each other every breeding season. Taking care of penguin eggs and chicks is a very intensive process involving both parents, so penguins often prefer to stay with a mate that they trust. Because of this, some penguin pairs that find themselves to be incompatible with each other will “divorce” and choose different mates during the next breeding season.
|Chinstrap Penguin||Rockhopper Penguin||Penguins TOOB|
- Penguin species tend to grow larger as the environment becomes colder. Most smaller penguins are found in warmer waters, while the larger species inhabit the colder areas closer to the South Pole. There are many possible explanations for this. One theory states that larger animals have a lower surface area to volume ratio, meaning that they lose less of their body heat and thus can stay warm in a colder habitat. The availability of food and resources can have an affect on the population of an animal, and also cause them to adapt by growing smaller or larger accordingly.
- The word “penguin” was originally another name for a flightless seabird called the great auk that became extinct in the 1800s. Auks are northern birds that, along with puffins, occupy the same ecological role that penguins do in southern waters. When explorers from Europe encountered these new birds in the Southern hemisphere for the first time, they called them penguins due to their similarity to the great auk. The name ended up sticking.
|African Penguin||South African Penguin||Humboldt Penguin|
We hope that, after reading this, you’re now more aware of penguins. You can help spread the word about penguins by sharing what you learned with others on this Penguin Awareness Day. And there are even more great penguin facts over on our SafariPedia, so don’t forget to check that out!