Celebrate World Penguin Day by learning about this unique flightless bird

By Kelli Bender
April 25, 2017 02:11 PM
A penguin swims at the surface, which loads its plumage with air.

Happy World Penguin Day!

As usual, all the penguins on this Earth have shown up in their black-tie best to celebrate the occasion. Along with giving a hat tip to this majestic (and sometimes silly) bird, this day was created to raise awareness about the number of penguin species that are threatened by things like habitat destruction, overfishing and pollution.

To protect these animals from further harm and help repair their current population numbers, it’s important to support conservation causes and be informed about all the types of penguins that are waddling across our world and the fascinating things they do.

To start you off, we put together 10 interesting penguin facts to build a base of knowledge about these unique creatures.

1. Penguins Have Knees

They may be hard to see, but underneath all the those feathers are a bony set of knees. This hidden body part helps the birds glide through the water and belly-slide on land.

2. The Smallest Species Only Weighs 3 Pounds

Little Penguin/Fairy Penguin (Eudyptula Minor) nesting in Wildlife, Australia (XXXL)
Credit: Getty

Little Penguins or Fairy Penguins are the smallest species of penguin. These tiny birds, which have a brilliant blue sheen, only grow to just over a foot tall and a little over three pounds. Fairy penguins can be found on the coastlines of New Zealand and Australia.

3. Not All Penguins Live in the Cold

Colony of african penguins on rocky beach in South Africa

Only two of 17 species of penguins that exist live in Antarctica, where the average temperature is -58 degrees Fahrenheit. Many others live in warmer coastline habitats in the Southern hemisphere. The warmest spot to host penguins is the Galapagos Islands, where the birds waddle around in 73 degree weather.

4. Penguins Can Easily Out-Swim Michael Phelps

Emperor penguins are capable of diving to 1,750 feet.

The Olympian with the most metals has nothing on these birds. Phelps often clocks in around 6 mph hours, which is of course impressive for a human, but most penguins can easily swim between 11-15 mph for sustained periods of time. Eat flipper, Phelps.

5. No Hollow Bones Here

Unlike other birds, penguins do not have light, hollow bones. Since these birds do not fly, they have denser bones that help them dive deep into the water for food.

6. Hearing Without Ears

Ok, penguins have ears, you just can’t see them. There are no external flaps, just holes on either side of the head covered by feathers. While these “listeners” don’t look like ours, they are great for hearing. Penguins can easily identify a particular mating call among the squawking of other birds.

7. Dad of the Year Award

Unlike many other wild animals, male penguins will often stay with their mate for months after the baby is born to help her raise the chick to maturity. Emperors penguins and some other species also help incubate eggs.

8. That Tuxedo Is Perfect for Camouflage

A penguin swims at the surface, which loads its plumage with air.

The penguin’s elegant black and white coat is designed to protect them from predators. Seen from above, the black feathers blend in with the darkness of the sea bottom. Meanwhile, when looking at the white belly feathers from below, the bird is able to swim with its face looking up and the sun shining down through the water’s surface.

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9. Penguins Go Way Back

The oldest relative of the penguin is the Waimanu Manneringi, a creature that dates back 60 million years ago. This means penguins, or at least their forefathers, survived the extinction event that wiped out the dinosaurs.

10. True Love Birds

Several species of penguins will find and mate with the same bird season after season.