Penguin (Spheniscidae) | Characteristics, Habitats & Amazing Facts

Name – Penguin

Scientific Name : Spheniscidae

Type : Birds 

Age : 6 to 20 Years

Diet : carnivores

Physical Characteristics:

Length : 30 cm To 1.3 m

Weight : 1.5 kg to 23 kg

Colour : black, gold and white 

Skin Type : Feathers

Wingspan : 40 cm to 76 cm

Speed : 1 to 2km/h for walking and 6 to 9 km/hr of swimming

Current Population :  40 million

Current Population Trend : Decreasing 

Native : Antarctica and Galápagos


Main Prey : krill  squids, fishes and squid

Habitat : Islands, remote continental regions and sea, coast

Predators : leopard seals, fur seals, sea lions, sharks, or killer whales

Favourite Food : small krills

Amazing Facts

·         Penguins are a group of 17 to 19 bird species found mainly in the Southern Hemisphere. They include Australia’s and New Zealand’s tiny blue penguins, Antarctica’s magnificent emperor penguins and king penguins present on several sub-Antarctic islands, the rare African penguin, and the Galápagos penguin—the only penguin found north of the equator.

·         Penguins cannot fly through the atmosphere, but they can fly underwater almost as easily as any other fish. Instead of wings, these birds have flippers that enable them to catapult their streamlined bodies up to 15 miles per hour across the sea in search of food.

·         These species depend on sea ice for access to food and breeding grounds. However, sea ice has been melting, and with it, penguin colonies.

·         Most are black on the back and white on the bottom, with black lines across the upper breast and white spots on the head. Color is uncommon, with red or yellow irises of the eye of some species and red beaks or paws in a few others.

·         Many facets of the penguin life cycle differ with body size and geographic distribution; the timing of breeding within a population can often vary in relation to latitude. The majority of animals only reproduce once a year.

·         Per three years, the king penguin breeds twice. The emperor and king penguins lay one egg, while the others lay two or three. The majority of penguins start breeding in the austral (southern) spring or summer.

·         Between the arrival of the birds at the colony and their departure, a number of visual and vocal displays are used. Courtship calls are seen during the pairing process of breeding and, to a lesser extent, during the following phases of breeding.

·         Egg incubation is performed by both sexes in all species except the emperor penguin, where it is performed solely by the male, and it begins immediately after egg laying.

·         Inexperienced birds’ faulty incubation behaviour often results in egg abandonment or breakage. The mortality rate (eggs and chicks) is critical at the egg level, and it varies from year to year based on climatic conditions, the proportion of young birds in the breeding population, and predation pressure. In general, mortality (eggs and chicks) ranges from 40% and 80% of the eggs laid.

·         Following egg laying, the female normally goes to sea to feed, returning to relieve her mate after 10 to 20 days. Following that, father and mother alternate for a week or two. The female emperor penguin, on the other hand, would regularly walk 80 to 160 km (50 to 100 miles) from the colony to the sea and does not return until the incubation period is over. During the 64-day incubation cycle, which lasts until the end of the Antarctic winter, the male emperor penguin incubates the egg, keeping it on his feet and subsisting on fat reserves.

·         Since the feet are far farther back than those of other species, the bird holds itself largely upright.

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