Written by Maci

Modified & Updated: 28 Apr 2024

Jessica Corbett

Reviewed by Jessica Corbett

Penguin Facts

Penguins have a famous reputation as the best-dressed birds of the wild. Aside from their cute appearances, they also excel in their incredible aquatic abilities.

However, they often behave in manners that can surprise many others. For all their similarities, different species of penguins often act a bit differently from one another. Find out more about these aquatic animals today with these fun penguin facts.

  1. Scientists have discovered 17 to 20 penguin species in total.
  2. The first penguin was discovered in the year 1840 during the French Antarctic expedition.
  3. They spend nearly 50% of their lives in the water and the other 50% on land. 
  4. On average, an adult penguin grows up to 1.1 meters tall. 
  5. The average weight of an adult penguin is around 77 lbs or 35 kg.
  1. Penguins belong to the Animalia kingdom as part of the Chordata phylum. 
  2. Penguins are considered to be flightless and aquatic birds. 
  3. These birds breed on land. 
  4. These birds belong to the Aves class. 
  5. Many penguins feed by hunting for fish, squids, shrimps, and other forms of sea life. 
  6. The Galapagos Penguin can be found in the Galapagos Islands near the earth’s equator. 
  7. The smallest penguin species is known as the little blue penguin or the fairy penguin.
  8. Larger penguins are found in colder regions, while smaller penguins are found in temperate zones. 
  9. A prehistoric species of Penguin could grow as large as the average human and match its weight.
  10. The word penguin can be traced to Latin and Dutch origins despite being a French discovery.
  1. Penguins are excellent swimmers.
  2. These birds live nearly exclusively in the Southern Hemisphere.
  3. Penguins are highly adapted to living in the water. 
  4. The word penguin first appeared in the 16th century as a synonym to the word great auk
  5. Male penguins are called cocks, while female penguins are called hens.
Table of Contents

Penguins were once called ‘weird geese’ when they were first discovered.

When the first penguins were discovered in the French expedition, a voyager named Antonio Pigafetta described the birds as “strange geese.” At the time, historians believed that these creatures were found around the area of Punta Tombo in Argentina. 

However, some also believe that penguins did not originate from Argentina, instead coming from the islands of Australia or New Zealand.

Penguin skeletons are unique from other birds.

All known penguins are found to have a skeleton with many of the bones in their fins shorter and flatter than the rest of the body. Compared to other bird species in the world, most penguins’ bones also come fused together. 

Similarly, a penguin’s elbow joint and wrist bone are also nearly merged. Of all the bones in a penguin’s body, their legs are considered to be the hardest and most durable, often staying intact after the penguin’s death.

On average, a penguin can swim 4 to 7 miles per hour.

Since they prey on mostly aquatic animals, penguins have to be good swimmers. The fastest swimming penguin species is known to be the Pygoscelis Papua which can swim at speeds up to 22 miles per hour. 

This is faster than the top swimming speed of the Emperor penguin, which averages speeds of 7.6 miles per hour.

Penguins don't have any teeth at all.

Instead of chewing, penguins catch their prey with their bills and swallow them whole. When a penguin eats, they use their barbed tongues and throats to consume their prey such as fish and crustaceans.

On average, a penguin will eat around 2 to 5 kg worth of fish per day, or even more during mating seasons. During these times, a penguin can eat as much as 6 to 7 kg of food per day. 

A group of penguins found in the water is called a raft.

Depending on the given situation, a group of penguins can be called by different names. When they are found grouped in the water, the group of penguins is called a raft due to its resemblance to a floatation device. 

However, when the penguins gather on land, they are referred to as a colony or a huddle. Some may also refer to a large group of penguins as a waddle or even a rookery. 

Many penguins species remain undiscovered.

Scientists have debated whether more subspecies of penguins exist or not. However, due to the many similarities between penguin species, it is difficult to tell for sure. 

There have also been many other studies that suggest how some penguin species might belong to a different group based on their surroundings and diets.

Penguin Facts
Source: Pexels

Many penguin couples can locate each other using distinct calls.

Several studies have shown that a penguin can produce a unique noise that its mate can recognize among all the other calls from its group. Scientists refer to this as the ‘Cocktail Party Effect,’ which lets the penguins focus on a particular noise while filtering out all other distractions such as background noises. 

This effect also applies to young penguins and their parents when they are trying to locate each other through a large crowd. The parents can quickly recognize their young from all other penguins based on the type of noises they have been making since their hatching. 

In the Batman series, The Penguin is one of Batman’s most famous enemies.

Known to the public as Oswald Chesterfield Cobblepot, Penguin is considered to be one of Batman’s most enduring villains. In the storyline, the Penguin acts as a criminal mobster who calls himself the Gentleman of Crime, often seen commanding an army of thugs and minions. 

The Penguin is also typically seen in a tuxedo suit and a large top hat with an umbrella custom made to act as a weapon. He also sports a monocle in many of the adaptations, sharing many distinctive features with his namesake such as his sharp teeth and beak-like nose. 

A penguin’s ‘suit’ acts as a camouflage when swimming.

When a penguin goes underwater, its black and white feathers double as camouflage from other sea life and stronger predators. Its black upper coat hides the penguin predators above, blends in with the water.

Additionally, its white front appears like the bright sky when seen from below, which hides the penguin from creatures that are located deeper in the sea. This allows a penguin to swiftly maneuver around without being noticed too much and allows it to hunt successfully when hungry. 

Penguins are considered to be very social creatures.

Among the many bird species, penguins are considered to be one of the most social birds in the group. All penguin species live in groups, commonly swimming and feeding in large groups to interact with one another. 

Other penguin species such as the Emperor penguin have also been found to coordinate their diving while swimming or hunting for food as well. A single penguin colony can have as much as a few hundred penguins to several thousand individuals. 

Fatter penguins are considered to be better mates.

During mating season, researchers have found that fatter penguins tend to have more mates than slimmer ones. When a male penguin is ready to mate, they strut around the female while exhibiting a mating call to attract the female of the species. 

Once a female has chosen their mate, they touch necks and slap each other with their flippers to indicate a mutual liking. Females typically choose pudgier males because of how much more compatible they are with raising and protecting their eggs and young chicks. 

Penguin Facts
Source: Pexels

Many penguins jump in the air first before diving into the water.

These birds commonly do this so that they can swim faster and create momentum for when they dive into the water. Just before they dive, penguins also release air bubbles from their feathers which, allows them to sink better as they jump. 

On average, penguins typically dive from around 15 to 20 meters high from the air before landing in the water. Often, these penguins will also jump from small cliffs if there is one nearby. 

Penguins typically build nests out of pebbles.

When creating the base of their nests, penguins make a line of depression in the ground to outline where their collected pebbles will go. The stones help protect their eggs from the surface once the snow melts and floods their surroundings. 

Some penguin species are also known to steal pebbles and rocks from other nests and add them to their own. At times, this may also cause conflict with other penguins as they are considered to be protective of their young eggs. How’s that for interesting penguin facts?

Most penguin species will mate for life.

On average, a penguin reaches maturity around 3 to 8 years from hatching. Once they reach this age, they are ready to mate with another penguin which will become their life mate. 

However, some research has stated that other penguin species such as the Emperor Penguin will be serially monogamous. Instead of mating for life, these penguins would only stay together for one season before moving onto another partner. 

Club Penguin is one of the world’s most popular penguin-based online games in history.

Classified as a Mass Multiplayer Online Game (MMO), Club Penguin first released in 2005. The game involved a virtual world where players would create and dress up their penguin characters and interact with one another. 

The game grew in popularity among younger children, creating a trend in modern pop culture. However, despite its popularity, the game eventually got discontinued in 2017.

The skeleton of a penguin also allows them to be better divers.

Much research has shown that due to the unique bone structure that penguins have, they can swim better than any other bird species in the world. Each of a penguin’s feathers has small muscles that allow them to be tightly held down and controlled when diving. 

In turn, this affects penguins’ extraordinary speed and power while swimming. 

Penguin Facts
Source: Pexels

Penguins commonly huddle with one another to seek warmth.

During the harsh winter months, you’d commonly see the penguins in Antarctica huddling together for warmth. This act also allows them to better incubate their eggs and protect their young from the cold weather

On average, these large groups will typically shuffle around every 30 to 60 seconds so that each individual can cycle through the warmth. Inside the huddle, these penguins generate a heat of 70°F (21.11°C) at the center. Now there’s one for adorable penguin facts.

Emperor penguins can hold their breath underwater for an average of 20 minutes.

Because of this amazing ability, they are considered to be the best divers among all other penguin species. Emperor penguins are also able to dive up to 500 meters below the surface making them one of the most successful hunters in the penguin world. 

Some Emperor penguins have also been recorded to dive even deeper and for longer periods, reaching nearly 30 minutes without coming up for air.

Penguins can drink seawater to survive.

One of the coolest penguin facts is that these birds can survive by drinking both fresh and saltwater. Penguins can survive on saline water thanks to a special gland in their bodies located around their eye sockets. 

These glands extract the excess salt from their blood and are excreted as a salty fluid through their nasal passages.

The Emperor Penguin incubates its eggs while on their feet.

Once a penguin couple has eggs, the male stays  behind to incubate the egg while the female goes out to hunt. The male penguin incubates their eggs by nestling them in the folds under their bodies, keeping them until they hatch. 

While traveling, most penguins will also carry around their eggs between their legs to stay warm. After the egg hatches, the young penguin will typically find warmth under their parents until it has reached maturity.

Source: Pexels

Penguins created a popular movie trend.

Due to many successful penguin-themed films such as Happy Feet and The Pebble and The Penguin, the penguin-related genre has become a hit in modern pop culture. Other animal-based movies such as the Madagascar series also led to the genre becoming more popular, eventually giving the famous penguin group their own spin-off series.dda 

The molting process takes around 2 to 3 weeks to complete for penguins.

When a penguin begins to molt its feathers, they will typically go through a stage called a ‘catastrophic molt’. Throughout this process, the penguin loses all of its feathers which leaves it unable to hunt or swim for 3 weeks.

The process starts once, a penguin appears to have fluffier patches all around its body, gradually thinning out as the feathers molt. 

The average lifespan of a penguin differs per species.

Generally, the life expectancy of a typical penguin falls between 15 to 20 years. Some penguin species such as the Emperor penguin will live considerably longer, while other smaller species typically have shorter lifespans. 

There is also a large mortality rate among young penguins when winter starvation forces stronger and more mature penguins to feed on their young. Definitely one of the darker penguin facts.

Many penguins glide from one location to the other instead of walking.

When penguins waddle to their destination, they exert twice as much energy compared to when they swim in the water. In turn, this becomes very exhausting for them, leaving them with less energy for hunting. 

When gliding, a penguin uses less energy to reach their destinations much quicker. Additionally, penguins would also glide around areas while looking for new nesting grounds. 

Penguins have a special gland in their bodies that produce oil.

Found at the base of their tails, penguins evolved with a specially-equipped uropygial gland or preen oil gland. Some people also refer to this as the preen oil or the penguin oil gland. 

Typically, this gland has antibacterial properties help regulate a penguin’s body heat while swimming. This also helps the birds stay healthy and get rid of dirt or debris from their feathers. 

Source: Pexels

Generally, penguins behave comfortably around humans.

Due to their social nature, penguins are quite comfortable around other creatures that dwell on the land – including people. Due to this, penguins do not see humans as a threat, instead taking a curious interest in them.

Some penguins will also dig out a burrow for themselves to stay in.

On occasion, when a penguin seeks warmth, it will dig out a burrow for itself or its egg. Some burrows double as an underground passageway, where they safely store their eggs and hide from predators during the night. 

In this scenario, the male and female take turns incubating their egg for around 8 to 9 weeks until they hatch. 

Penguins can also dive as deep as 800 feet under the water.

While most penguins can only dive between 300 to 500 feet deep into the water, other species have shown that they can go further with no signs of difficulty. However, this does not appear to be common among the many penguin species apart from Emperor Penguins. 

Leopard seals are a penguin's worst enemy.

In the Antarctic region, penguins face the biggest threat in the form of leopard seals.  Using their powerful jaws, leopard seals easily rip apart and kill their prey.

Typically, leopard seals wait for their prey underneath the ice, catching them as they leap into the water.

Scientists can find large groups of penguins from space using their poop.

When a colony of penguins is made up of thousands of members, it becomes increasingly easier for satellites to find them. This also includes the excrement that these birds leave behind which lets scientists track them as the colony moves to different locations to find new nesting grounds. Now, there’s one for amusing penguin facts.

Was this page helpful?

Our commitment to delivering trustworthy and engaging content is at the heart of what we do. Each fact on our site is contributed by real users like you, bringing a wealth of diverse insights and information. To ensure the highest standards of accuracy and reliability, our dedicated editors meticulously review each submission. This process guarantees that the facts we share are not only fascinating but also credible. Trust in our commitment to quality and authenticity as you explore and learn with us.