April 25 is World Penguin Day!
This is one of two dates set aside on the Quark Expeditions calendar to celebrate penguins around the world – the other date is January 20, which is Penguin Awareness Day.
To celebrate World Penguin Day, here are some fascinating facts you may not have known about on the most famous permanent residents you'll encounter on your Antarctic expedition.
Different types of penguins
We sometimes tend to think of a penguin as a generic bird, sort of like a polar bear is “just” a polar bear. But there are actually many different types of penguins.
For instance, you might see at least eight distinct penguins on an Antarctic expedition – the Adélie, the chinstrap, the emperor, the gentoo, the king, the macaroni, the Magellanic and the rockhopper.
There are as many 20 different species of penguins altogether, all of them native to the Southern Hemisphere. Others have become extinct.
Penguins aren't confined to Antarctica
While penguins are certainly found in large numbers on the Seventh Continent, that's not the only place you'll ever see them. Many penguin species make their homes in South America, Africa and Australia instead.
The African penguin, for instance, lives on the Penguin Islands off the coast of Namibia and South Africa. The little penguin, the smallest species of penguin, is from Australia and New Zealand.
And the Galapagos penguin can be found on the Galapagos Islands, in the Pacific Ocean west of Ecuador. Because these islands straddle the equator, these particular birds are the only wild penguins that may live at least part of the time in the Northern Hemisphere.
The unique mating habits and rituals of penguins
When it comes to pairing off, penguins may be here for a good time, or for a long time. It depends on the species.
Magellanic penguins are the most faithful of the bunch – when they decide on a mate, it's for life. One Magellanic couple is known to have stayed together for an amazing 16 years!
Emperor and king penguins are serially monogamous, meaning they will have one partner each year and will stay faithful to their partner during that time. But next year, they may have a different partner.
Adélie and gentoo penguins are somewhere in the middle. They will do their best to reconnect with each other year after year.
Stones and pebbles play a strong role in the mating process of the related Adélie and gentoo penguins. They use these stones to build their nests, but they are coveted to the point where a female Adélie may step outside her relationship in order to get stones from unattached males.
This doesn't happen with their cousins, because the male gentoo will take it upon himself to take stones away from rivals without the female having to, shall we say, compromise her dignity.
Penguins are aquatic birds – but they can't fly
Not everything with wings can fly, and penguins are perfect examples of that!
Their wings have adapted to work like flippers instead, and as a result they are able to propel themselves through the water with grace and speed, a much different impression than they give when they waddle on land or ice.
Penguins can dive great distances to find food. Their eyesight has adapted to allow them to see underwater, and their thick insulating feathers help to protect them from the cold.
Krill, fish and squid form much of a penguin's diet. In turn, a penguin may become food for orcas, seals and sharks.
See penguins for yourself, speak to a penguinologist
How better to celebrate World Penguin Day than to plan your Antarctic adventure with Quark Expeditions? You might even travel with one of Quark's popular penguinogolists, like Dr. Tom Hart from Penguin Lifelines.
With Quark, you'll see not only copious, playful penguins but many other fascinating wildlife and sights unique to the Southern Hemisphere.
We're waiting to help you plan the Antarctic cruise of a lifetime – contact us today to get started!