Penguins are the most common birds in the Antarctic. Living in colonies with populations larger than some cities, and surviving in the harshest of conditions, it is no wonder that penguins are seen as the emblem of Antarctica.
There are 17 different species of penguin, only two (emperor and Adélie) make the Antarctic continent its home, although others (chinstrap, gentoo and macaroni) breed on the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula, where conditions are less harsh. King penguins only breed on the warmer more northerly subantarctic islands. One species, the Galapagos penguin, even lives on the equator.
The name Penguin came from Welsh ‘pen gwyn’, which means ‘white head’, or from the Latin ‘pinguis’, referring to the fat or blubber of the bird. Fossil records show that penguins evolved from flying birds (petrels) about 50 million years ago. There were at least 25 species, many of which have become extinct. Some fossil penguins were larger than the ones that exist today, with one species almost as tall as a man (170cm).They were once considered to be the most primitive of birds.
Antarctic penguins have a striking black and white coat. The distinctive colours and features of each penguin species are on their heads and neck — some are black and white, some have yellow patches, and others have elaborate coloured eyebrows.They vary greatly in size, from the little penguin weighing 1.1kg and about 40cm tall, to the emperor penguin, which weighs up to 40kg and is about 115cm tall.Although they have wings and feathers, penguins cannot fly. Instead, they have evolved into the most efficient swimmers and divers of all birds. Some species spend 75% of their time at sea.They are excellent divers, descending to depths of over 250 metres, though most of their dives will be in the top 10 metres.
They like cold weather and thats why they do not prefer anything close to equator or arctic region.Their short outer feathers overlap, like tiles on a roof, to form a thick waterproof layer, and underneath are fluffier feathers for warmth.
Penguins are sociable creatures both on land and at sea. Their colonies — known as rookeries — are often huge, with up to a million nesting pairs. In the pure Antarctic air, you can smell a penguin rookery from a long way away! Penguins generally breed on exposed rock, beaches or tussock grass, with the exception of the emperor, which breeds on sea-ice.
The penguin diet consists mainly of fish and squid and crustaceans. In the Antarctic, the smaller penguins mostly feed on shrimp-like krill. Penguins can change their diet to what is available, and their diet varies considerably with season.
The total number of breeding pairs of penguins in the Antarctic region is estimated to be about 20 million. Although this covers a huge geographical area, the penguins are concentrated in coastal regions. Huddled up in the cold of winter, emperor penguins can reach a density of 19 birds per square metre.Most penguins (except the emperor and king) lay more than one egg, usually two. Incubation duties are shared by both parents, working in shifts until the chick hatches, with varying shift lengths from daily changeovers (gentoo) to over a month (emperor).
A penguin’s feathers keep it waterproof and warm, and must be well oiled. They using oil from a special gland at the base of the tail.
Feathers become worn out and must be replaced every year. During the three to four weeks of moulting, penguins come ashore. Because they are no longer waterproof when they lose their feathers and cannot go to sea to feed, penguins fatten up before moulting, gaining an astonishing 50–70% in weight.
Ending my small info on Penguins from Antarctica.
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