Penguin image Penguins


Imagine a group of highly sociable birds that abandoned flight millions of years ago and that now spend up to 75 percent of their lives in water. That description can only be given to the penguins.

There are 18 species of penguins on earth and they all live south of the equator. The largest is the Emperor penguin, which stands almost four feet tall while the Little Blue Penguin stands only about 16 inches tall.

Penguins are primarily black and white, although some species have small tufts of colorful plumage that accent their heads. The black back and white front pattern on a penguin’s body is know as “counter-shading” and is critical to a penguin’s survival.

When a penguin swims underwater, its black back helps it blend into the dark water when viewed from above. The white underside allows it to blend into the light background when viewed from below.

Although penguins are flightless birds and look comical as they waddle on land, they display both agility and grace when swimming. A penguin’s wings are small, sturdy and streamlined. With just a few flaps, these wings send a penguin “flying” through the water. Some penguins can speed up to 15 miles per hour underwater.

Penguins have several characteristics that help them below the surface. Unlike flying birds, the bones of penguins are solid and dense. That makes them strong, not very buoyant, and helps them dive deep underwater.

Because water easily pulls heat away from a body, a penguin must be able to insulate itself. Dense and oily feathers, up to 70 per square inch, overlap and form a waterproof barrier. A layer of blubber below the penguin’s feathers and skin also helps keep the penguin warm. Special blood flow patterns in the feet of penguin reduce heat loss.

Penguins feed entirely on aquatic animals -- crustaceans, fish and squid. The types of food consumed will vary among penguin species and will also change over the year as the availability of certain foods changes. Penguins chase their food underwater, and upon catching it, will swallow it whole.

Although penguins are only found in the southern hemisphere, some species occur in bitterly cold climates while other species occur in more temperate regions.

All penguin species reproduce on land. Most will build nests, but some penguin species will hold an egg on top of their feet to protect it from the deadly cold. Parents will take turns incubating the egg and guarding the nest. This is done so that each penguin has the chance to go to sea to feed.

About two weeks after the penguin chick hatches, it is large enough to be left alone by both parents. This allows both parents to search for food at sea, and bring back enough for the rapidly growing chick.

Cold Climate Penguins

At Newport Aquarium, the cold weather species of penguins you’ll discover include the King, Gentoo, Macaroni and Chinstrap penguins. You can see and learn more about all these species at our Penguin Palooza exhibit.

Warm Climate Penguins

Penguins from South Africa prefer much warmer temperatures than their cold-weather cousins and because of this, they are housed separately. Although our warm climate penguins are not part of the Penguin Palooza exhibit, the Newport Aquarium offers the opportunity for guests to purchase a one-of-a-kind hand-on experience with these amazing birds through a Penguin Encounter.

Things to Know
Penguin Palooza

African Penguin Awareness Week

October 8th through October 16th

During African Penguin Awareness Week, every dollar from our “Dollars for Conservation” program in the retail store will support SANCCOB - The Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds.

Baby penguin

SANCCOB is a conservation organization in South Africa that focuses on helping African penguins and other shorebirds. The WAVE Foundation has supported their Chick-Rearing Unit for the last few years, and has overall supported them since 2007 (since the opening of the Penguin House at Newport Aquarium). Most recently, they recently rescued, rehabbed, and re-released 72 penguins from an oil spill last month.

You can round-up your purchase in the gift shop (or donate a dollar - or more) to the WAVE Foundation and SANCCOB with each transaction.

Click here to learn more about SANCCOB and African Penguin Awareness Week.