There are 17 species of Penguin—all which live in the Southern Hemisphere. The largest is the Emperor penguin, weighing up to 88 pounds and 40 inches tall. Fairy penguins, also called Little Blues, are the smallest at 16 to 17 inches tall and weighing only 2 pounds. 6 species of penguins are crested. The Yellow-eyed penguin is the rarest. Most male and female penguins of a species look alike.
Using their flippers, penguin can “fly” through the water at about 20 miles per hour. On land most penguins hop, though a few species walk. Antarctic species can speed over ice by "tobogganing" on their bellies.
Penguins feed on fish, cephalopods, such as squid and octopus, and crustaceans, such as shrimp and krill. Penguins swallow their food whole. Penguins have a variety of bill shapes. Generally, fish eaters have long and thin bills, but those penguin, who mainly feed on krill, have shorter and stouter bills.
An area penguins use for nesting is called a rookery. Some rookeries include hundreds of thousands of penguins. Penguins usually lay 1 to 2 eggs. Both Emperor and King penguins incubate their eggs on their feet, instead of in a nest. If food is scare, many penguin parents will feed the strongest chick and let the other die. Later young penguins join with other chicks to form a “crèche” or nursery group. Penguins are very social.
Adult penguin predators include shark, leopard seals, sea lions, and orcas. Eggs and young are threatened by gulls, skuas, petrels and other shore birds.
Fun Penguin Facts
- The Adelie penguin (pictured above) is the most common penguin in Antarctica. A mating pair of Adelies build a rocky nest of small stones.
- When constricted the pupil of King penguins is square!
- African (Blackfooted) penguin don’t live near any other penguin groups.
- Humboldt penguins from coastal Peru and Chile are one of the most timid species of penguins.
- Magellanic penguins were named after Ferdinand Magellan who first saw them in 1519 on his trip around the tip of South America.
- Rockhopper penguins have very loud calls.