What is it that makes penguins so fascinating and adorable?
On International Penguin Awareness Day (20th January), here are five fun facts about these sharp-dressed, flightless birds of the Southern Hemisphere.
It’s a Bird, It’s a . . .
The first published sighting of a penguin was by an Italian “tourist,” Antonio Pigafetta, who tagged along with Ferdinand Magellan’s first voyage to circumnavigate the globe in 1520. Antonio described the birds he saw near the tip of what is now Argentina as “strange geese.”
The Gentoo Penguin is the fastest of all penguins. They can soar through the water at speeds of up to 22 mph. They are the third largest type – only Emperor and King varieties are larger.
All Dressed Up
The “tuxedo” plumage of many penguin species provides camouflage to help them hide from predators under water.
Seen from above, their dark backs blend in against the ocean depths. It’s also hard to spot them from below as their light bellies don’t stand out against the brightness of the water’s surface.
Bad Feather Day
Unlike most birds who shed and replace feathers gradually, penguins lose all their feathers at the same time in what is called a “catastrophic moult.”
This is why they sometimes look very scruffy instead of their usual sharp suited selves.
Just the Two of Us
Although it varies between species, most penguins have the same mate for life, although they don’t spend much time together outside the mating and chick-rearing season.
They share responsibility for incubating the egg and caring for the baby though.
(All photos in this feature were taken at Edinburgh Zoo.)
And the best song about penguins comes from Sandra Boynton and sung by the late Davy Jones. Your Personal Penguin.