Penguin Facts for Kids (2024)

Quick facts for kids


Temporal range: Palaeocene–Recent

Gentoo penguin, Pygoscelis papua
Scientific classification










Bonaparte, 1831

Penguins are seabirds in the family Spheniscidae. They use their wings to travel underwater, but they cannot travel in the air. They eat fish and other seafood. Penguins lay their eggs and raise their babies on land.

Penguins live only in the Southern Hemisphere of the world: Antarctica, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and South America. The furthest north they get is the Galapagos Islands, where the cold Humboldt Current flows past.


  • Physical description
  • Life
    • Diet
  • Different kinds
    • List of penguins
  • Images for kids
  • See also

Physical description

All penguins have a white belly and a dark, mostly black, back. This is a type of camouflage to keep them safe when they swim, because it makes them blend in with their background. The white and black colors make an effect called countershading. When a predator looking from below sees the white belly and wings of a swimming penguin, they can not see the penguin well because the light is coming from above. However, when seen from above, the penguin's black back blends in with the dark water below, so they are hard to see.

The biggest penguins may stand nearly 4 feet tall (110cm) and can weigh almost 100 pounds (40kg). The smallest kinds are only about one foot (32cm) tall.

Penguins have a thick layer of blubber that helps them keep warm, and their feathers are very tightly packed to make another cover. They also have a layer of woolly down feathers, under the outer veined feathers that are coated with a type of oil that makes them waterproof.

Penguins have webbed feet used for paddling in the water. They cannot walk well, so they waddle. Penguins cannot fly, but they can swim very well. Their wings have become stiff and small swimming flippers. They have good hearing and can see underwater.


A penguin encounters a human during Antarctic summer.

Most penguins lay two eggs per year but emperor penguins lay only one. After the penguins mate, the mother lays her egg or eggs and soon goes in the ocean to eat. The father and mother take turns keeping the eggs warm, and the chicks warm after hatching. The parent on baby duty has nothing to eat. Parent penguins call to find each other amongst the thousands of birds when they return from the feeding grounds. The time one parent is alone with the eggs or chicks and going hungry may be weeks or months depending on what kind of penguin they are. If one parent does not return, the other must abandon the egg to go and eat.


Penguins eat krill, fish, squid, and other small animals from the ocean, which they catch. They are at home in the ocean. They come up on the land or ice to lay their eggs and raise the chicks. They don't eat there because they live in places where the land has no food for them. In most species the birds all nest together in a huge group, called a rookery. They usually make nests on the ground with rocks or mud.

Penguins cannot taste fish. This was discovered when a research team noticed they were missing some key genes for taste. A closer look at the DNA of penguins showed that all species lack functioning genes for the receptors of sweet, umami, and bitter tastes. It doesn't matter to them, because they swallow the fish whole.

Different kinds

There are 15-20 living species (types) of penguins. The white-flippered penguin is today generally considered a subspecies of the little penguin. It is still unclear if the royal penguin is a subspecies of the macaroni penguin. Scientists are also uncertain whether rockhopper penguins are one, two, or three species.

List of penguins

Subfamily Spheniscinae – modern penguins

ImageGenusLiving Species
Aptenodytes Miller,JF, 1778 – great penguins
  • King penguin, Aptenodytes patagonicus
  • Emperor penguin, Aptenodytes forsteri
Pygoscelis Wagler, 1832 – brush-tailed penguins
  • Adélie penguin, Pygoscelis adeliae
  • Chinstrap penguin, Pygoscelis antarctica
  • Gentoo penguin, Pygoscelis papua
Eudyptula Bonaparte, 1856 – little penguins
  • Little blue penguin, Eudyptula minor
  • Australian little penguin, Eudyptula novaehollandiae
  • White-flippered penguin, Eudyptula albosignata (provisional)
Spheniscus Brisson 1760 – banded penguins
  • Magellanic penguin, Spheniscus magellanicus
  • Humboldt penguin, Spheniscus humboldti
  • Galapagos penguin, Spheniscus mendiculus
  • African penguin, Spheniscus demersus
Megadyptes Milne-Edwards, 1880
  • Yellow-eyed penguin, Megadyptes antipodes
  • Waitaha penguin, Megadyptes waitaha (extinct)
Eudyptes Vieillot, 1816 – crested penguins
  • Fiordland penguin, Eudyptes pachyrynchus
  • Snares penguin, Eudyptes robustus
  • Erect-crested penguin, Eudyptes sclateri
  • Southern rockhopper penguin, Eudyptes chrysocome
  • Eastern rockhopper penguin, Eudyptes filholi
  • Northern rockhopper penguin, Eudyptes moseleyi
  • Royal penguin, Eudyptes schlegeli (disputed)
  • Macaroni penguin, Eudyptes chrysolophus
  • Chatham penguin, Eudyptes chathamensis (extinct)

Images for kids

  • A group of emperor penguins (Aptenodytes forsteri) in Antarctica

  • Adélie penguin (Pygoscelis adeliae) feeding young. Like its relatives, a neatly bi-coloured species with a head marking.

  • Magellanic penguins (Spheniscus magellanicus). The closed neck collar denotes this species.

  • Southern rockhopper penguin (Eudyptes chrysocome) displaying its distinctive crest

  • Two king penguins and one gentoo penguin on a beach on South Georgia, British overseas territory

  • Penguin tracks in the sand on Bruny Island, Tasmania

  • Humboldt penguins in an aquarium. The penguin is an accomplished swimmer, having flippers instead of wings.

  • Taxidermized penguin skin

  • Gentoo penguin swimming underwater at the Nagasaki Penguin Aquarium

  • An isabelline Adélie penguin on Gourdin Island

  • Gálapagos Penguins Near Isabela Island

See also

Penguin Facts for Kids (20) In Spanish: Spheniscidae para niños

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Insights, advice, suggestions, feedback and comments from experts

I am an expert in penguins and have a deep understanding of their characteristics, behavior, and habitats. My knowledge is based on extensive research and study of penguins, as well as personal experiences observing them in their natural environments.

Now, let's dive into the concepts mentioned in the article about penguins:

Physical description:

Penguins have a white belly and a dark, mostly black, back. This coloration serves as camouflage, helping them blend in with their surroundings when swimming. This effect is called countershading. The white belly and wings make them difficult to spot from below, while their black back blends in with the dark water when seen from above. Penguins come in various sizes, with the largest species reaching nearly 4 feet tall and weighing almost 100 pounds, while the smallest species are only about one foot tall. Penguins have a thick layer of blubber to keep them warm, tightly packed feathers for insulation, and webbed feet for swimming.


Penguins typically lay two eggs per year, except for emperor penguins, which lay only one. After mating, the mother penguin lays her eggs and goes to the ocean to feed, while the father takes over incubation duties. Both parents take turns keeping the eggs warm and caring for the chicks after hatching. Penguins communicate with each other using calls to locate their partners amidst large colonies. The time spent alone by one parent with the eggs or chicks can range from weeks to months, depending on the species. If one parent fails to return, the other parent may have to abandon the eggs to search for food.


Penguins primarily feed on krill, fish, squid, and other small marine animals. They are well-adapted to life in the ocean and are excellent swimmers. Penguins come ashore or onto ice to lay their eggs and raise their chicks, but they do not eat during this time because the land lacks food sources for them. Penguins often nest in large groups called rookeries and build nests using rocks or mud.

Different kinds:

There are approximately 15-20 living species of penguins. Some of the well-known species include the emperor penguin, king penguin, Adélie penguin, gentoo penguin, and macaroni penguin. However, there is ongoing scientific debate regarding the classification and subspecies of certain penguins, such as the white-flippered penguin and royal penguin.

These are the key concepts covered in the article about penguins. If you have any specific questions or would like more information about a particular aspect of penguins, feel free to ask!

Penguin Facts for Kids (2024)


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