Learn some fun facts about the Antarctic penguins.
Learn some fun facts about penguins! With a handful of movies spotlighting the flightless birds, Hollywood seems to obsess over penguins. And for good reason. The adorable, waddling birds are friendly creatures that inhabit the frozen tundra of Antarctica and the surrounding Antarctic and sub-Antarctic islands. Those who travel on Hurtigruten voyages to Antarctica will get an up-close look at these stunning birds, a favourite among Antarctic animals.
Are penguins birds? Yes, they are! The answer is yes, penguins are birds - although they swim and cannot fly. One can say that the penguins belong to a zoological term called flightless seabirds. In common with other birds they have feathers and lay eggs. The penguins feathers are stiff and closely overlay each other to get a isolating layer, which traps air beneath it and provide insulation against cold weather and water.
Types of penguins - how many are there? There are 17 total species of penguins, but the continent of Antarctica is home to only four breeding species of them. By far the most common is the chinstrap penguin (Pygoscelis antarctica), which owes its name to the narrow black band under its head. The second-most populated is the Adélie penguin (Pygoscelis adeliae), numbering approximately 2.3 million pairs in Antarctica.
Other penguin species on the continent include the emperor penguin (Aptenodytes forsteri) and the Gentoo penguin (pygoscelis papua). Three more species live and nest on the Antarctic and sub-Antarctic islands: the macaroni penguin (Eudyptes chrysolophus), the rockhopper penguin (Eudyptes crestatus), and the king penguin (Aptenodytes patagonica).
Where do penguins live? Since there are over 17 different species of penguins, they live scattered from each other. Penguins make their homes in different climates, depending on the type of penguin. All penguins live in the Southern Hemisphere – there are no penguins in the Arctic.
Do polar bears eat penguins? Since there are no penguins in the Arctic and no polar bears on the Southern Hemisphere, penguins don’t get eaten by polar bears. This is only a common misconception. Polar bears and penguins have therefore never met. Read more about the penguins of Antarctica!
Emperor penguins are the largest of all penguins. An average bird stand about 45 inches tall.
Penguins are often called 'flippered flyers' because of their effortless movement through the water. This bird is not able to fly; its wings are developed for swimming rather than flying. Underwater, they can reach speeds of up to 15 to 25 miles per hour. Emperor penguins can reach depths of up to to 1,850 feet!
Photo: Karsten Bidstrup and Andreas Kalvig Anderson
7. One method they use to survive the cruel environment is huddling together to escape wind and conserve warmth. Individuals take turns moving to the group's protected center. After the penguin has become relatively warm, it'll move to the outer perimeter of the group.
8. Male emperor penguins stand for about 65 days through the icy temperatures and wild storms to keep their eggs warm. During this time, temperatures outside reach -76°F!
9. Emperor penguins are the only penguins that breed in the Antarctic winter. The other species breed in the austral summer.
10. A group of chicks are called creches, and are left when the adults fish.
11. A group of penguins is called a colony.
12. The average penguin weighs about 88 pounds. That's a lot of insulation!
13. Females sometimes travel 50 miles to reach the open ocean, where they find fish, quid, and krill. When they return to the breeding site, they carry a stomach full of food that they regurgitate to their young.
14. The ice begins to break up in December, Antarctic summer, just when young penguins are ready to swim and fish on their own.