The popular penguin at the aquarium is the one that walks flapping its wings and feet.
Penguins are often used as motifs for stuffed animals and characters because of their adorable appearance. There are many mysteries hidden in these penguins!
“What are penguin legs like?” “What kind of personality do penguins have?” Why don’t we take a peek at the secrets of penguins to solve these questions together?



~ Basic information. ~


Length 40~120cm weight 1.2~45kg.

They have little flying ability, but instead are good at living in water because their feet have developed paddles. Most species dig holes on the ground or underground to make nests.

The breeding season varies depending on the species, but penguins often start breeding in groups. Some penguins can breed throughout the year.

The number of eggs laid in one spawning is often 1-2. Basically, males and females take turns warming the eggs, but sometimes “the males first warm up”.

As with humans and other animals, giving birth or laying eggs is a very tiring event that consumes a lot of energy. In the case of penguins, after laying eggs, the female must start eating to recover her strength.

While the female goes to the sea for food, the male waits and warms the egg, including protecting it. Of course, depending on the species, there are cases where the female warms up first. Chicks are born about 30 to 70 days later.

Some species of penguins cooperate in child-rearing with other penguins besides their parents. This is called a cooperative nursery or “crèche” in French.

The lifespan of a penguin is about 20 years. Some penguins lived a little longer than 26 years.




Penguin’s Q&A.

Where does the penguin get its name?

Actually, the cute name “penguin” originally referred to the “Great Auk” that existed on Earth until around the 19th century.

There are two stories related to this. One is that the Latin word “Pinguinus” or the Spanish word “Penguigo” became “penguin”. Pinguinus means “fat” and Penguigo means “chubby”. Although the Great Auk is now extinct, if you look at its stuffed animal, it has a plump body shape.

At first, this name was given to the Great Auk, but later, when similar fat birds such as the King Penguin and the Humboldt Penguin were discovered, these birds also came to be called penguins, and the Great Auk became extinct. Later, it is said that only the name was taken over by the current penguin.

Another theory is that the word “penguin” comes from the ancient Welsh word “pen gwyn” (white head). The Great Auk’s appearance was not only chubby but also had a distinctive white head. When similar birds with similar patterns were discovered, such as the King Penguin and Humboldt Penguin, they too became known as penguins and after the Great Auk became extinct, the name was passed on to today’s penguins only in name.

However, in fact, most species of penguins have black heads. Therefore, this theory is somewhat questionable. In other words, the Latin theory is more likely. It was surprising that other birds were involved in the origin of the name!

What do penguins eat?

They eat squid, octopus, small animal plankton, shrimp, and krill. Actually, penguins do not have teeth to chew, so they basically swallow everything whole. At this time, they always put it in their mouth from the head side, but there is a good reason for this.

Fish scales grow from the head to the tail, so if you accidentally swallow it from the tail side, there is a risk that the fish scales will get stuck in your throat. To prevent this, penguins always swallow fish from the head.

By the way, penguins do not have teeth but instead have many sharp protrusions in their mouths. This is to prevent prey from escaping easily when swallowed.


Why can’t penguins fly?

When it comes to birds, we have an image of them living by flapping their wings in the sky, but why can’t penguins fly even though they are also a type of bird?

One reason is related to their habitat in the southern hemisphere. Basically, the southern hemisphere has more sea areas than the northern hemisphere.

There are predators that attack penguins in the sea, but there are fewer than in the northern hemisphere where there is more land. Because they are attacked less frequently by predators, penguins have been able to breed successfully.

Also, because there is a lot of sea area, they need to search for food in the sea. As a result, penguin feathers have evolved to specialize in diving.

It is believed that as a result of establishing a life of diving into the sea and catching fish to eat, there was no longer a need to fly in the air.


Why can penguins live in cold places?

Speaking of the southern hemisphere, it is a very cold place where the average temperature is below zero throughout the year. Why can penguins live in such a harsh environment?

Actually, the penguin’s body is covered with thick subcutaneous fat and many feathers. The fat and feathers prevent the body heat from escaping, so they can live in very cold places.

However, penguins sometimes feel cold too, and it seems that they sometimes gather together and make a huddle, which is a circle of penguins huddled together to keep warm.


Why do penguins have short legs?

The way penguins walk with their short legs is very cute, isn’t it? But actually, the penguin’s legs are an interesting mechanism.

What we see as the penguin’s legs is only a small part of them, and they are actually animals with long legs.

The legs are buried in the subcutaneous fat inside the body, and to put it simply, they stand with their legs folded down, just like a person sitting on an air chair.

It’s interesting to imagine that their legs are buried in those feathers while watching penguins.


Can penguins be kept as pets?

If you want to keep a rare animal, you may need to follow the laws established by the country. This time, I will introduce whether it is possible to keep a pengin at home in Japan.

Penguins are popular because of their cute appearance, but they are not very large and can they be kept at home like dogs and cats?

The answer is yes. However, it seems that keeping penguins is quite difficult.

First of all, they are not sold in pet shops, so you have to start by looking for them. Catching wild penguins that live in the southern hemisphere and other places is prohibited, so you must keep or breed penguins for pets. You need to ask a proxy company that imports rare animals.

In any case, it seems that it takes a lot of time and effort to prepare registration forms and other documents. By the way, the price is over 1 million yen per bird.


If you have seen penguins at an aquarium or elsewhere, you may know that you need a lot of water and food.

Also, since they eat mainly fish and shellfish every day, their feces smell very bad. Surprisingly, their cries are loud and some people find them noisy.

And if a penguin gets sick, it is difficult to find a veterinarian who can examine it because it is different from an aquarium. It is really difficult to keep them as pets unless you are really prepared for it.

Is it true that penguins have good ears?

Some people may not know where penguins’ ears are located.

It is very difficult to see with the naked eye, but there is a hole just below and to the side of the eye that is said to be the penguin’s ear.

As the title suggests, penguins have excellent hearing and can distinguish between the cries of family and friends even when in a group.


Is it true that penguins are friendly?

Penguins are said to be generally less afraid of humans.

Of course, the personality varies depending on the breed, so not all penguins will come close to humans.

Why do they have such a personality? We don’t know the details, but as we introduced in other Q&As, penguins live in places with few natural enemies.

If a human were to enter such a place, the penguin, which has few opportunities to encounter natural enemies, might not understand what we humans are… and might think of us as mysterious and unknown creatures.

In other words, rather than being friendly, they may be approaching humans out of curiosity.

They may not know whether we are friend or foe, but let’s get closer and investigate. If we’re friends, that’s great, but if we’re enemies, we have to protect our friends! We humans may be seen by penguins in that way.




Type of pengin.

・Emperor Penguin.
・King Penguin.
・Adelie Penguin.
・Gentoo Penguin.
・Chinstrap Penguin.
・Galapagos Penguin.
・Erect-crested Penguin.
・Rockhopper Penguin.
・Macaroni Penguin.
・Royal Penguin.
・Snares Penguin.
・Fiordland Penguin.
・Yellow-eyed Penguin.
・African Penguin.
・Humboldt Penguin.
・Magellanic Penguin.
・Galapagos Penguin.
・White-flippered Penguin.
・Little Penguin.


ペンギンガイドブック 著者:藤原幸一

鳥の不思議な生活 築地書館 (2016/1/19)






Penguin Library