Penguins are a family of flightless aquatic birds that primarily live in the Southern Hemisphere in Antarctica, Africa, South America, Southern Africa, New Zealand, and Australia. The only penguin species in the Northern Hemisphere live at the Equator in the Galapagos.
Less than twenty penguin species remain in the world. The smallest penguin is the Little Blue Penguin which reaches up to 12 inches (30 centimeters) in height. The largest penguin species is the Emperor Penguin, which can reach 44 inches (112 centimeters).
The largest penguin that ever lived was the Mega Penguin, which reached 63 inches (160 centimeters) in height, the same height as an average person. Fossil records of this species show it lived around 40 million years ago.
All penguins hang out in groups throughout their lives. These groups have different names depending on what the penguins are doing. A group of penguins that form during the breeding season is a colony or rookery.
Less common collective nouns include:
What is a Group of Penguins in the Water Called?
A group of swimming penguins is called a raft, probably because they float on the surface together in groups. Penguins spend most of their time in the ocean, diving for food or floating. They are perfectly designed for flight underwater, with solid bones and streamlined bodies.
They only eat seafood and spend their days foraging underwater, chasing fish. The fastest penguins are the Gentoo Penguins, which can swim at speeds of 22 miles per hour (35 kilometers per hour). Most penguins swim around 4 to 7 miles per hour (6.4 to 11.3 kilometers per hour).
When penguins eat fish, they swallow water, then sneeze it out later. The average penguin dives between 30 and 60 feet (9 to 18 meters) below the surface when foraging for fish. Emperor Penguins have the record for the deepest dive at 1,850 feet (564 meters).
What Is a Group of Penguins on Land Called?
A group of penguins on land are called a waddle because of how they walk. Their awkward, ungainly movements across the snow make it obvious why they spend most of their time in the ocean. When penguins travel downhill, they often slide down on their bellies like a toboggan.
Penguins only leave the water’s edge twice a year for breeding season and during their catastrophic molt. This catastrophic molt can last several weeks when the penguins cannot swim or feed. They have to store fat reserves in advance to survive during this period.
When penguins leave the water during the breeding season, they may have to travel miles across the sea ice to reach their breeding grounds. Penguins return to the same grounds each year to breed, usually returning to the same place they hatched.
What is a Pair of Penguins Called?
Penguins court each other when first choosing a mate. Male penguins will gift a female with rocks that the female can use to build her nest. Some males will steal stones from other males or nests to give to their females. A pair of penguins do not have a name.
Once a breeding pair has mated, they often mate for life until one dies. They return to the breeding grounds and meet annually to raise their young. Some penguins, like the Emperor Penguin, do not build a nest. Instead, they incubate their egg between their feet and abdomen.
What is a Group of Baby Penguins Called?
The egg or eggs are incubated for one to two months, depending on the species. Larger penguin species usually incubate longer before hatching. Babies remain in the nest for two to three months before leaving their parents and forming groups during the day.
A group of baby penguins is called a creche. In some larger species, baby penguins form a group or creche and are watched during the day while parents hunt for food. When the parents return, they identify their baby by its vocalizations.
Baby penguins leave their parents around six months after hatching, depending on the species. Larger species may stay in a creche longer while their parents forage for food and return to feed their young. Baby penguins start swimming four months after hatching or when they are waterproof.
Depending on the species, penguins need around three to eight years before they are sexually mature and start breeding.
Not all penguin species form creches. Tropical species, or those that burrow into the ground, do not need a group for protection or warmth.
Do Penguins Flock Together in Groups?
All penguins are social, sometimes gathering in groups of thousands or more. They work cooperatively to protect their babies from seabird predation on their breeding grounds. When the weather is extremely cold, they huddle together for warmth.
Some penguins also flock together to feed. Scientists believe penguins are more successful at catching prey when they work cooperatively. They can surround a school of bait fish and work together to push fish toward the surface where other penguins can swoop in and feed.
Do Penguins Migrate?
Penguins migrate each year from their feeding grounds to their breeding grounds. Some species migrate across the land, forming a long line of penguins that stretches out as they march to their nesting locations. The collective noun, march, came from this behavior.
The Emperor Penguin has the longest migration across the land and may travel 100 miles (161 kilometers). The Tawaki Penguin has one of the longest migrations in the ocean, traveling thousands of miles from its breeding grounds to its feeding grounds.