World Penguin Day was created by scientists at the McMurdo Station in Antarctica when they noticed a colony of Adelie Penguins returning to the same spot, on the same day, every year. The scientists decided to create a day of celebration for this annual migration and zoos, parks, and conservationists around the world celebrate this day to bring awareness to the health and conservation of these beautiful creatures.
Some facts about penguins (source: Antarctic Ocean Alliance and Ian Somerhalder Foundation):
- Penguins may look cute and awkward, but they can adapt to a very harsh environment. They are also very important to the Antarctic ecosystem.
- They spend 75% of their lives at sea. They swim underwater at around four to seven miles per hour.
- There are 17 species of penguins. They come in a variety of sizes and, although they are all black and white, they each have distinctive patterns and markings.
- Most species breed in large colonies for protection, ranging from 200 to hundreds of thousands of birds. Scientists can locate colonies from space by looking for dark stains on the ice from all that penguin poop!
- Emperors are the largest species – average height is about 45 inches.
- Most penguins forage for food at depths from 150 to 250 metres, but some dives to 565 metres have been recorded. An average dive lasts 3-6 minutes, with the longest recorded dive at 22 minutes.
- Penguins can’t fly, but some species get a little airborne when they leap from the water onto the ice. Just before taking flight, they release air bubbles from their feathers. This cuts the drag on their bodies, allowing them to double or triple their swimming speed quickly and launch into the air.
- The penguin’s ‘tuxedo’ coloring helps them be camouflaged while swimming. From above, their black backs blend into the dark ocean water. From below, their white bellies match the bright surface lit by sunlight. This helps them avoid predators.
If you’d like to learn more about the penguin, the library has an extension collection of materials here.
Here’s a small sampling of what we have to offer:
Empire Antarctica: ice, silence & emperor penguins – Gavin Francis
Penguins – Roger Tory Peterson
Penguins! – Gail Gibbons
Penguins – Seymour Simon
My Season With Penguins: an Antarctic Journel – Sophie Webb
Penquins, penguins, everywhere! – Bob Barner