What are some interesting facts about penguins

Penguins: The diving birds in the animal lexicon

The bird in the tailcoat is a strange fellow: it cannot fly, although it is a bird, but it can dive deep, although it is not a fish. Curtain up for the penguin!

Everything you need to know about penguins

As soon as winter arrives, many birds move to the warm south, where there is enough food for them. But the penguin lives in cold areas all year round. It doesn't have to fly away - and it couldn't. But why can't this bird fly at all?

Penguins lost the ability to fly many thousands of years ago. They are believed to be descended from the diving petrel. It uses its wings both for flight in the air and in the water. Penguins live at the South Pole, which is surrounded by the sea like an island.

Land predators cannot reach it. This is why penguins no longer have natural enemies on land and do not have to fly away to get to safety. And that's why penguins have forgotten how to fly: they no longer need to.

Flight under water

Much more important for the penguins is another skill: they are excellent divers. The underwater hunters can follow their fish meal down to a depth of 100 meters. Penguins have a great trick for getting to the surface: they have air sacs inside their bodies that make it easier for them to surface.

In the water they flap their wings like their flight relatives, they "fly" through the water. The wings of the penguins are no longer suitable for floating in the air.

Penguins' survival tricks

Penguins are prepared for the cold from head to toe: walking barefoot on ice, swimming in bitter cold water - how can penguins stand that? The penguins' feet always adapt to the temperature of the ground. So when they are on ice, they have "icy" feet to keep them from freezing. A layer of fat under the skin also protects the penguins' vital organs.

The plumage is a special heat store: the short feathers keep you warmer than any thick down jacket and also prevent the bird's body from giving off too much heat. In addition, the penguins constantly coat their plumage with oil from the oil gland so that the plumage repels water. It forms a waterproof coat that protects the penguins from the icy water as well as from the cold of a blizzard.

The black and white plumage of the penguins looks like a suit, which is why one speaks of the "bird in tails". The pattern protects the penguins in the water from their enemies: from below the white belly can hardly be seen against the bright sky, while the black back is difficult to see from above against the dark sea floor.

A thick layer of fat (1) under the skin protects the vital organs. A layer of down (2) and a jacket made of tiled springs (3) also prevent the bird's body from giving off too much heat.

The penguins constantly brush their plumage with oil from their oyster glands (4) so that the plumage repels water. Your feet alone are cold - on purpose: you would otherwise stick to the ice!

The penguin slippers are made through a sophisticated vein system (5) kept cool. The arteries through which the warm blood flows from the body to the feet are surrounded by a network of veins through which the cold blood flows from the feet back into the body. In this way the blood flowing up is warmed and the blood flowing down is cooled.

Fished for (r) ish

When the sea freezes on the shore in winter, the path to food for the penguins becomes wider and wider. Once they get there, they can eat up to ten kilograms of fish. That's more than your stomach can hold. Penguins therefore digest very quickly in order to have more space. In addition, penguins can also stop their digestion completely: In this way they bring the undigested food back to their young, who are eagerly waiting for it.

In the case of emperor penguins, the largest penguin species, the mother goes looking for food after laying eggs, while the father tends the egg in his belly fold and keeps it warm. When the mother comes back after about two months, the cub has just hatched and is very hungry. Now the penguin dad wanders to the sea to hunt for fish.

Breeding season and offspring

In June it is particularly cold, because that is when winter begins at the South Pole - and also the breeding season. With all penguin pairs at about the same time. Each female lays an egg and rolls it to her father. He takes it on his feet and puts his stomach over it - as protection from the icy wind. While the male is brooding, the mother catches fish in the sea. For weeks.

It is not there when after two months - pick, pick, pick - the chick chops its beak into the eggshell and hatches. It's warm and cozy under daddy's stomach! When the mother returns a few days later, well fed, the little one ventures into the cold air for the first time - and then quickly slips back under her warm stomach. Then under his mother's.

The penguin kindergarten

Did you know that penguin boys also go to kindergarten? In summer, both parents go looking for food. The path is now much shorter than it was in winter because the ice has melted and the seashore is closer. While the parents get food, the boys snuggle up together so as not to freeze in the Antarctic cold. The penguin boy initially still has a light gray feather down, he only gets his "tailcoat" later.

Why are there no penguins at the North Pole?

Because penguins evolved millions of years ago in the southern hemisphere. Back then the continents were closer together than they are today. When the Antarctic landmass drifted towards the South Pole, it took the ancestors of today's penguins with it. Penguins that were experimentally released by scientists at the North Pole also got along very well there - but the way there is simply far too far for all other penguins.

Why do penguins wear "tailcoats"?

The posh black and white is a perfect camouflage suit in the water: for circling birds of prey, the black back of the penguins can hardly be distinguished from the dark sea surface. For sharks or sea lions swimming among the penguins, their white belly hardly stands out against the bright sky over the sea.

Why can't penguins fly?

Penguins could fly if they could approach a speed of 400 kilometers per hour. Then her stubby wings would actually keep her up in the air. But no penguin can do that! Their ancestors, on the other hand, could still fly, but they forgot how to do it 60 million years ago at the latest.