Don't have an Account? Sign up now.
Log In

Penguin Facts: The Essential Penguin Primer

They dress well, they eat well, by all accounts they are very romantic, and they are die-hard southerners.  No, we're not talking about Italians or Brazilians.  We're talking about the Southern hemisphere's most popular inhabitants: penguins.

Any visit to the southern hemisphere countries of New Zealand, Australia, Chile, Argentina, and especially the Antarctic peninsula offers a great chance to learn more about penguins who are some of the wild kingdom's most interesting representatives.  Engaging, thanks in large part to the sartorial splendor of their “black tie” plumage and amusing waddle, penguins are actually fascinating creatures who make their home on both land and in sea with interesting and unique habits and traits which make them an endless source of interest to naturalists and researchers.  We've gathered just a few penguin facts to start you off on learning more about these fascinating birds.

1.  Penguins Love to Fish: Rare exceptions for birds, penguins are committed carnivores who fish in the cold waters of the southern hemisphere for fish, squid, and smaller shellfish.  Although they don't have teeth, sharp spines on their tongues and the roofs of their mouths help penguins efficiently grind and digest their food.

2. Penguins Really Are Dandies and They Need SPF: Penguins dedicate several hours each day to grooming themselves, but not because they are vain; rather their constant grooming keeps their feathers spread with the oil they secret from a gland near their tails.  This renders their feathers waterproof and enables them to swim at great speeds in the cold ocean waters.  Once a year, penguins molt, losing all of their feathers which represent over half of their body weight.  During this time, they cannot go in the ocean, and must protect themselves from the harsh sunlight to avoid getting sunburnt.  A zookeeper in 2009 famously made a “wet suit” for a penguin called Ralph who was slow to grow his feathers back.

3.  Penguins Have Fun: Researches have long watched penguins “toboggan” on their stomachs down ice and snow banks, concluding that the primary reason they do it is simply because they enjoy it.  

4.  Penguins Get Hot Flashes: Despite being committed southerners, penguins are very warm-blooded with a normal body temperature of 100°F (38°C).  To regulate their body temperatures, penguins pant like dogs.

5. Penguins are Very Gregarious: Penguins are highly social animals, clustering in groups to enter the sea in what researchers believe is “safety in numbers.”  Each penguin rookery has its own particular call, which alerts particularly the young chicks to the location of the group.  Emperor penguins exhibit sophisticated group dynamics in inclement weather, huddling together to shelter from the wind and rain and constantly moving to trade a less protected position for a warmer and dryer one. 

6. Penguins are Romantic: Penguins observe very specific mating rituals that are curiously very human: one species sings to potential mates and the Emperor penguins bring pebbles or small stones to their prospective mates, who accept them by placing them in the nest where the couple will protect the penguin eggs and from where they will raise their young chicks.

Alexander + Roberts offer numerous opportunities to meet penguins on innovative itineraries such as Antarctica... Glaciers and Penguins.

Posted: 4/4/2016 10:51:42 AM by Alexander + Roberts