FAQ www.penguin.net.nz

Are penguins birds?
Yes, penguins are birds (Aves) in that they have feathers, lay eggs and have forelimbs modified as wings, but in this case used for swimming. They also share all the other characteristics of birds, being warm-blooded (around 40 deg C) and having a reduced reproductive system (one functional ovary or testis).
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Do penguins fly?
No, penguins use their wings (called flippers) to propel themselves through water rather than air. Because water is much more dense than air, penguin wings are shorter and stouter than the wings of flying birds. Penguins are also much heavier than similar sized flying birds and have solid bones rather than weight-saving air-filled bones. While these characteristics enable penguins to efficiently "fly" through water, they have had to sacrifice the ability to fly in air to do so.
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Do penguins have feathers or fur?
Yes, like all other birds, penguins have feathers. Penguin feathers are short, overlapping and densely packed. The outer part of the feather is waterproof while the inner down section traps an insulating layer of air, keeping the penguin warm in the sometimes freezing water. Unlike those of flying birds, the feathers on a penguin wing are very short.
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Do penguins have knees?
Yes. Penguins appear to have very short legs and no knees because only the lower leg is externally visible. Their knees and upper legs are feather covered, hiding them from view. This also means that penguins never get cold knees!
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Do all penguins live at the South Pole?
No penguins live actually at the South Pole but two species do live on the edges of the Antarctic continent. The islands of the antarctic and sub-antarctic support the largest number of species, there are several species that live in temperate climates and one at the equator (the Galapagos penguin). No penguins live in the northern hemisphere.
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How do penguins stay warm?
The only penguin that has to cope with extreme cold is the Emperor penguin. Like all penguins, the Emperor has a thick layer of insulating feathers which are designed to keep them warm in water, remembering that heat loss in water is much greater than in air. In addition to this, the Emperor has the largest body mass of all penguins, which further reduces relative surface area and heat loss. They also are able to control blood flow to their extremities, reducing the amount af blood which gets cold, but still keeping the extremities from freezing. In the intense antarctic winter, the male Emperor penguins (the females are at sea) huddle together to keep warm and rotate position to make sure everyone gets a turn at being on the cold edge.

Getting cold is not really a problem for most penguin species, most have trouble staying cool when out of the water. Penguins often hold their flippers out to radiate heat and make their feathers stand up to flush out some of the warm air trapped within. Some species have bare patches of skin on the face with which to radiate heat, while others nest underground or in forest.

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What do penguins eat?
The diet of penguins varies between species and in some cases, location. The species taken include a wide range of fish, squid, octopus and euphausids (shrimp-like animals). Some species of penguin target surface-schooling fish species while others are mid-water or bottom feeders.
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What do penguins look like when they hatch?
The size of penguin chicks at hatching varies according to the species. Blue penguins have the smallest chicks and weigh just 35 grams at hatching.

When penguins hatch, they are initially covered in a sparse down, usually brown with a white chest. After a week or two this is replaced with a much thicker layer of secondary down. When the chick approaches full size the down is replaced by feathers.
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Do polar bears eat penguins?
No, penguins cleverly avoid being eaten by polar bears by living in separate hemispheres!
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Do penguins bite?
Yes, penguins defend themselves and their nest sites with their beaks and wings. They bite fiercely and also use their thick, strap-like, wings to beat their opponent. Blue penguins and most of the crested species are regular fighters, often getting into bloody brawls during the breeding season. The more reclusive species, like yellow-eyed penguins, rarely fight among themselves, but are still prepared to bite anybody that comes too close.

Like most penguins, the species in New Zealand do not like being handled by humans. The closest thing to being beaten up by a penguin is being grabbed with a pair of needle-nosed pliers and beaten with sandals!

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