Frequently asked questions

Do penguins have teeth?
No. Penguins, like all other birds, do not have teeth. The chicks do have an egg tooth, but this is not a real tooth, but rather a sharp bump on the top surface of the bill which is used to break the egg when hatching.

Penguins do have rearward-pointing, tooth-like barbs on the tongue and roof of the mouth. These are not used for chewing, but instead assist in the swallowing of their slippery prey.
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Can I have a penguin as a pet?
No, all the species of penguin found in New Zealand and in most other countries are protected species and it is thus illegal for individuals to hold them in captivity.

Penguins are also difficult for an individual to keep in captivity. They require large quantities of top-quality fish and access to water for swimming. The penguin species found in New Zealand do not readily domesticate, that is they have to be force-fed and usually try to bite your fingers off at every opportunity! (See Do penguins bite?)

In the southern hemisphere there are numerous places to see penguins in the wild and in the northern hemisphere a number of zoos have penguins.
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How long do penguins live for?
Most species have an average life expectancy of about 10 years, although some individuals occasionally live for up to 25 years. The graph to the right plots the age of flipper-banded yellow-eyed penguins at either death or the last live recovery. 40% of all chicks banded are never recovered and are presumed dead.
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Do penguins have ears?
Yes, penguin ears are in the same place as ours. The only difference is that they have no external ear (the fleshy bit that sticks out the side of your head) and that the opening is covered by feathers.
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How deep can a penguin dive?
The ability of a penguin to dive is related to its size - the bigger the penguin, the more oxygen it can store in its tissues, the longer it can hold its breath and the deeper it can dive. Blue penguins (the smallest) can only manage 2 minutes and a maximum of 60m, while Emperor penguins (the largest) can dive for up to 20 minutes and get to 550m.
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Why are penguins black and white?
The strategy of having a dark dorsal (upper) surface and a white ventral (lower) surface is one that has been adopted by many marine animals. Predators looking down see the penguin as a dark shape on a dark background and predators looking up see a light shape on a light background - the most effective camoflage for an animal that spends most of its time at or near the surface.
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What do you call a ....
There is no official name for a group of penguins, however the delegates at the IVth International Penguin Conference in 2000 agreed that the appropriate term was a "waddle" of penguins. When arriving or departing the colony penguins often form a close group or raft, so at sea a group of penguins is often called a "raft".

There are no specific names for a male or female penguin or for a chick.
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How do penguins feed their young?
Penguins store food in their stomachs and it is regurgitated to the chicks. The adults do not feed each other and may stay ahore without feeding for many days.
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Which is the largest penguin?
Emperor penguins are the largest penguin species, standing 120cm high and weighing up to 30kg. The smallest species is the blue penguin, standing just 25cm high and weighing 1kg.
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