All About Penguins

There are 17 species of penguins, all which live in the southern hemisphere. They are flightless black and white birds who appear to be wearing tuxedos. While a couple of the species are shy, in general penguins are the most social of the bird family and fun to study.

Sleek, streamlined bodies and flippers enable them to speed through those waters while heavy dense bones help them dive deep into the sea. Penguins spend three-quarters of their life in the sea, and their waterproof feathers protect them. Unable to breathe underwater; they must surface for air. There is a. layer of fat, or blubber, under the skin to help keep them warm. The blubber also serves as a food source when the penguins are fasting.

Penguins communicate in two ways -- by sounds and displays. Calls are individual, recognizable sounds like fingerprints that aid in visual recognition, identifying mates, and warning of danger. Displays are motions the penguins make to communicate with each other.

The Emperor penguin is the largest, weighing in at an impressive 88 pounds and standing 40 inches tall. They do not construct nests, and lay a single egg during breeding. They feed on small fish and squid, and their main predators are giant petrel, killer whales, and leopard seals.

Second-largest in the penguin world is the King penguin. A much smaller version of their giant relative, weighing 20 pounds and 31 inches tall, they eat the same food as the Emperor, and are susceptible to the same predators.

At the other and of the size scale is the Little penguin (also called the Blue or Fairy penguin), weighing just two pounds and 16 inches tall. This diminutive little bird returns yearly to the same burrow-type nest. Its main enemies are sharks, seals, killer whales, sea eagles, and gulls.

The Fiordland-Crested, also known as the thick billed, is the shyest of the penguin species. They nest in caves, weigh about eight pounds, and are 17 inches tall.

The rarest penguin is also the fourth largest. Yellow-eyed penguins are the rarest of the species; with less than 4,000 birds still in existence. Their nickname is Hoi ho, which is Maori for noise shouter. They are 24 inches tall, weigh14 pounds, and scoop out bowl shaped nests that they fill with grass and twigs.

Adelie penguins are the most common. They weigh 11 pounds, stand 30 inches tall, and form mounded circle-shaped nests of rocks. Their favorite food is krill, silver fish, and squid; their worst enemy is the Leopard seal.

There are six penguin species in the New Zealand range: Little, Erect-Crested, Fiordland-Crested, Rockhopper, Snares Island, and Yellow-eyed penguins.

There are six penguin species in the crested group, and they can be identified by their head crests. They are the Rockhopper, Macaroni, Erect-Crested, Royal, and Snares Island penguins.

Four of the species are related to one another and prefer temperate climates rather than the usual arctic weather. They are the Humboldt, Galapagos, African and Magellanic penguins. The shrill, braying call of the African penguin has earned it the nickname of jackass penguin. The remaining species are: Chinstrap, and Gentoo penguins.

Studying penguins is interesting and fun.Whether you study one or all 17 species, you will find many unusal facts to spark your imagination.