Conservation news

How to help penguins (photos)

Penguins are found in the Southern Hemisphere and come in all sizes ranging from 13 to 48 inches in height. The smallest is the little penguin from Australia and New Zealand; the largest is the emperor penguin of Antarctica.

While these birds cannot fly through the air, they are very adept at using their wings to propel themselves through the water. Some penguins can dive to depths of about 1,750 feet. Their dark and light feathers are tightly packed — 70 feathers per square inch — keeping them insulated in the cold conditions of the marine environment where they live.

Chinstrap penguins are found in Antarctica and the world’s other southernmost islands. Changing ocean conditions affect their main food source, krill. Credit: © Julie Larsen Maher / WCS
Penguins are social animals that live in colonies like this one of chinstrap penguins characterized by noisy vocalizations. Credit: Julie Larsen Maher ©WCS

Penguins are noisy and use various calls to attract mates, find their chicks, frighten off would-be predators, or just fuss with their neighboring penguins. Several species have distinctive calls. Magellanic and gentoo penguins bray. Chinstrap penguins scream, causing quite a cacophony in their colonies.

Today, penguins are in trouble. They depend on the sea for food and coastal lands to nest, rear their chicks, and molt. Close to two-thirds of the world’s 17 penguin species face population pressures from threats like overfishing, oil spills, and man-made changes to the birds’ environment.

Macaroni penguins are among the penguin species that live farthest south in the sub-Antarctic islands. They are one of six penguin species that have colorful crests of feathers. Credit: Julie Larsen Maher © WCS.
Macaroni penguins are among the penguin species that live farthest south in the sub-Antarctic islands. They are one of six penguin species that have colorful crests of feathers. Credit: Julie Larsen Maher © WCS.
While penguins cannot fly through the air, they are very adept at using their wings to propel themselves through the water like this macaroni penguin. Credit: Julie Larsen Maher ©WCS

Here are some ways to help protect penguins:

King penguins (Aptenodytes patagonicus)

King penguins are from Chile and are the second largest of the penguin species standing nearly 3 feet tall. Credit: © David Oehler / WCS
King penguin chicks are covered in fluffy brown down that is warm on land, but not when wet. The young birds can’t go into the water until they have acquired their adult feathers. © Julie Larsen Maher / WCS

Rockhopper penguin (Eudyptes sp)

Rockhoppers are among the smallest penguins at about 22 inches tall. Their food supply has become scarce in South America. Credit: © David Oehler / WCS

Magellanic penguin (Spheniscus magellanicus)

Magellanic penguins leave their coastal homes in Argentina, Chile, and the Falkland Islands in the winter and then return to the same burrows every year. Credit: Julie Larsen Maher ©WCS
Magellanic penguins leave their coastal homes in Argentina, Chile, and the Falkland Islands in the winter and then return to the same burrows every year. Credit: Julie Larsen Maher ©WCS

Black-footed penguin (Spheniscus demersus)

Black-footed penguins are also known as African or jackass penguins. They have a donkey-like bray and are found on the southwestern coast of Africa from Namibia to South Africa. Credit: Julie Larsen Maher ©WCS
Black-footed penguin chicks are covered in downy feathers. As they grow, their plumage becomes a combination of down and adult feathers that resemble a Mohawk haircut. Credit: Julie Larsen Maher ©WCS

Little penguin (Eudyptula sp)

Little penguins are the smallest of the 17 penguin species at just 13 inches in height. Their home range is Australia and New Zealand. Credit: Julie Larsen Maher ©WCS

Gentoo penguin (Pygoscelis papua)

Gentoo penguins look as if they are wearing a bonnet of white where feathers cover the tops of their heads. They live on the Antarctic Peninsula. Credit: Julie Larsen Maher ©WCS

 

WCS Wild View Posts on Penguins

 

The Authors: David Oehler is curator of ornithology at the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Bronx Zoo. Julie Larsen Maher is staff photographer for WCS. Megan Maher is a graduate student and works for WCS.

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