Because they essentially look like little men wearing fancy tuxedos, penguins have always managed to melt our hearts. However, there’s more to these birds than meets the eye, as you are about to find out by the end of this list.
1. At this point, there are 18 species on penguins living on Earth
Although most people only think about the notorious Emperor penguin whenever these birds are brought into discussion, it is necessary to point out that the aforementioned specie is simply the largest. Even though scientists warn about the declining populations, some even to the point where they risk extinction, there are 18 known species of penguins, some more interesting than the rest. It is important to note that while you can usually see them at your local zoo, penguins live mostly in the Southern hemisphere.
2. There are notable differences between various species of penguins
It is necessary to mention that while an adult Emperor penguin is typically 114 cm high and weighs around 40 kg, the smallest species of penguins – the blue penguin – is only 25 cm tall and weighs approximately 1 pound. According to biologists, the relatively big differences stem from the birds’ different habitats. Because ice, particularly the so-called fast ice that does not move in winds and currents is essential for their habits, the Emperor can typically be found in very cold climates. The blue penguin can be mostly found in areas near Australia and New Zeeland, although some have been also spotted in Chile.
3. Some penguins prefer the tropical climate
Even though most documentaries on these majestic birds focus on the Emperor colonies that live closely to Antarctica, it is necessary to mention that some species thrive in tropical climates as well. To be more precise, the Galapagos penguin can often be seen along the shoreline of the islands with the same name. In addition to being located in the northernmost part of the Southern Hemisphere, some biologist claim that they even step into the Northern Hemisphere to feed. However, because they are not a migrating species, you should know that this happens very rarely.
4. Penguins are the best bird divers
If you are a bird watcher and prefer spending your vacations in different parts of the world in locations that promote avi-tourism, then chances are that you saw at least one bird quickly diving into the water only to spring out a few seconds later with a small fish or a frog in its beak. An interesting thing about penguins is that even though they lost their ability to fly a very long time ago, they are currently the deepest diving species of birds in the world.
5. Penguins are the kings of porpoising
Despite the fact that they lost their ability to fly a few million years ago, their cute flippers as well as their body shape have evolved to make them very proficient swimmers. This type of swimming might not be very efficient energy-wise compared to keeping the body completely submerged underwater, but it does have the benefit of allowing the penguins to trick their predators as well as permit them to breathe regularly. In addition, biologists claim that sometimes, these adorable birds simply do it out of joy or excitement.
6. The multiple roles of their plumage
If penguins didn’t have their specific, some say tuxedo-like plumage, then porpoising would not be possible especially at the impressive speed of 32 kmh. To put it simply, the plumage tends to develop tiny bubbles while they are swimming, thus protecting their bodies from friction damage. In addition to increasing their swimming speed, the light and dark contrasts of the feathers helps the penguin benefit from a double camouflage, namely the dark side makes them invisible to predators above, while the light side shades them from the ones found in the water.
7. The yellow-eyed penguin is almost extinct
Besides the alarming decline of the birds numbers and authorizes attempts to protect them, some species of penguins – such as the yellow-eyed penguin – are currently risking extinction. As a matter of fact, the population of yellow-eyes typically living on the shores of New Zealand has decreased to the point where there are only 4,000 of these penguins left. The good news is that the local authorities have already taken the necessary steps to help the conservation of this species of penguins by building them two natural reservations in the mainland areas. Furthermore, in 2010 the yellow-eyes penguins have received protection under the United States Endanger Species Act.
8. Human intervention is both positive and negative
While penguins have various natural predators according to their habits and geographical location, it is necessary to point out that the increasing artificial threats have also begun to affect the penguins more than usual. From global warming that melts down the ice patches certain species of penguins need to mate, lay eggs and raise chicks to oil spills and water pollution, human expansion in these birds’ natural habits became a serious problem.
Luckily, most of the penguins are receptive and adapt quickly to natural reservations and conservation centers. Unfortunately, even though people try to help conserve the specie, penguins do not possess an efficient biological defense mechanism to survive in other areas than their natural environment. This is the main reason why many of them die so quickly in zoos across the world.
9. Penguins are not sexually dimorphic
More often than not, any person with a trained eye could determine whether the bird flying right above your head is a female or a male based on the plumage and morphology. However, this is not the case for male and female penguins, as the two genders basically look the same. The only exception is during the mating seasons when you could distinguish a male from a female depending on how much mud it has on its plumage.
10. Penguins have a sharp vision
Since the penguin’s diet consists mostly on what they catch in the sea, it was only natural for them to evolve superior eyesight that would permit them to spot their prey easily underwater, irrespective of whether the water is clear or not.