Penguins are birds that cannot fly. There are 18 different species of penguins. In freedom, all live in the seas of the southern hemisphere of the earth. They only go to land to breed or to change feathers. Some even breed in Antarctica and nearby islands.
As birds, penguins have feathers. The belly is white, the rest black, gray, or tan. Their wings are reminiscent of fish fins. The fins help with swimming, as do the webbed feet. The legs are rather short. Penguins mainly live in the sea. Many penguins catch fish. Smaller species, on the other hand, eat small animals such as crabs.
Penguins have to endure both heat and cold. That is why they have a layer of fat under the skin that is 2-3 centimeters thick. It insulates the body against extreme cold. There are three layers of feathers over the skin. Each layer alone would be waterproof. With three layers, the penguins are really on the safe side.
The penguins can be divided into two groups: The giant penguins reproduce on the ice. Therefore they incubate their egg on their feet to keep it warm. All other penguins build nests on the ground near the shore. Some also do this in warmer areas. But that only works if there is a cold sea current there.
How do giant penguins grow up in Antarctica?
Big penguins include emperor penguins and king penguins. Emperor penguins are 100-130 centimeters tall and weigh 22-37 kilograms. The king penguins are about 90 centimeters and 10-16 kilograms. The eggs of the emperor penguins are slightly larger, the incubation period is slightly longer.
The giant penguins breed in Antarctica because that’s where they have the fewest enemies. From mating until the cub is independent, its parents stay together. The female lays only one egg at a time. It weighs about ten times as much as a chicken egg.
The parents take turns laying the egg on their feet and warming it in a fold of skin. On the ice, the egg would freeze instantly. While the females incubate, the males migrate to the sea to feast. They often slide there on their stomachs to move faster. The feeding takes about 2-3 weeks together with the way. Then they relieve their female so that she can go and eat.
The breeding season of emperor penguins lasts about nine weeks. After hatching, the young animal spends another few weeks between the legs of its parents. The father takes care of the baby first and feeds it with a milky liquid from its beak.
Then the mother brings pre-digested fish into her stomach and feeds it to the young. Meanwhile, the father goes to the sea. So the parents take turns. If need be, giant penguins dive as deep as 45 meters to catch prey.
After a while, the young no longer need the warmth of their parents. Larger young animals form groups so that the parents can leave them alone and at the same time go foraging for food. This allows them to get more food for the growing young. They usually live to be around 20 years old.
How do the other penguins grow up?
These penguins live in southern Africa, as well as in Australia and New Zealand, and other islands. These areas are far enough from the equator that it is not too hot. The Galapagos penguin is an exception. He lives in the Galapagos Islands, which belong to the country of Ecuador. There is a cold sea current there.
The parents go to the mainland near the sea to mate. These are rocky coasts, cool forests, sandy beaches, or grasslands. On solid ground, penguins waddle a little awkwardly and cannot find food, so they stay close to shore.
Most smaller penguins build a nest and lay two eggs in it. The young hatch a few days apart. Most of the time, however, the penguins only properly feed their first child, so that the second one soon starves and dies. If the first die very young, the parents will raise the second. In the beginning, one parent always stays with the little one, later they can also stay alone in a group.