18 Fascinating Facts About Penguins

There's actually a good reason for a penguin's "tuxedo" look.

penguin facts

Penguins are one of the most interesting animals in the world. This group of aquatic, flightless birds lives primarily in the southern hemisphere, mostly in Antarctica. And since there are 18 types of penguins, we’re rounding up 18 of the coolest facts about these fascinating creatures (who always look like they’re dressed for a formal occasion).

18 surprising penguin facts

  1. The oldest penguin fossil is approximately 61 million years old. So today’s penguins have ancestors who likely lived alongside dinosaurs (who became extinct 65 million years ago).
  2. Everyone knows penguins look like they’re wearing tuxedos. Turns out their black and white look has a clever purpose: It’s camouflage against potential predators when swimming called “countershading.”
  3. Penguins steal from each other to keep their babies safe (instead of going to find new rocks for their baby’s nest, penguins will sometimes just swipe a rock from their neighbor).
  4. Penguins can shoot “poop bombs” more than 4 feet (yes, really).
  5. Penguins don’t have teeth. They use the pointy end of their beak to help them grab food, which is typically fish.
  6. Many male penguins give female penguins rocks to show their affection, and the ladies will use the rocks to build a nest. Umm, thanks?
  7. The smallest species of penguin only weighs 3 pounds. Little Penguins or Fairy Penguins are a beautiful blue color, but only grow to just over a foot tall and a little over 3 pounds. They can be found along the coasts of New Zealand and Australia.
  8. Every penguin has his or her own distinct “call.” Scientists believe unique noise helps them identify their mates in large crowds.
  9. Teenage king penguins go through a molting stage where they lose their hair, and the awkward stage reminds experts of going through puberty.
  10. Penguins don’t waste time under water. They can swim at speeds of over 10 miles per hour, and gentoos, the fastest type of penguin, can go as fast as 20 miles per hour.
  11. Their underwater impressiveness doesn’t stop there. Penguins can also dive down over 800 feet. In the deepest dive ever recorded by the Australian Antarctic Program, an emperor penguin reached 1,850 feet. That’s some serious lung capacity!
  12. Along the coast of southern Africa, African penguins live in large colonies. They use their own poop, called guano, to build nests under bushes and rocks.
  13. A penguin’s feathers aren’t the only way he stays warm. A gland near the base of his tail provides waterproof oil, and a penguin will spend many hours each day covering his feathers with this oil as another barrier against the cold.
  14. Although penguins are associated with cold weather, no, penguins do not live at the North Pole. And 14 species of penguins actually live in warm or temperate climates!
  15. Penguins can drink saltwater. The supraorbital gland near their eyes filters salt out of their systems, which separates the salt from the water.
  16. Emperor penguins are excellent at holding their breath. While most penguin species can hold their breath for two to three minutes while underwater, the emperor penguin can hold his breath for up to 20 minutes!
  17. Penguins and their mates take very good care of their eggs. The father penguin protects the egg, while the mother penguin goes in search of food (go, Mom!). Baby penguins are called chicks.
  18. When a penguin finds his mate, the duo will sing to each other so they can recognize their voices. Awww!

What an incredible world we share with all animals, including penguins. Since we know that penguins living in Antarctica have been directly impacted by the effects of climate change, taking steps to educate yourself about penguins and to understand why they’re facing trouble is the first step to helping save this amazing species.