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Penguins: Sphenisciformes

Physical Characteristics, Behavior And Reproduction, Emperor Penguin (aptenodytes Forsteri): Species Accounts, Macaroni Penguin (eudyptes Chrysolophus): Species AccountsGEOGRAPHIC RANGE, HABITAT, DIET, PENGUINS AND PEOPLE, C


The Galápagos penguin lives just north of the equator, but all other species live in the southern half of the world. Although many equate the penguin with Antarctica, more than half of the seventeen penguin species are never seen there.

Although penguins spend most of their time diving for food, they do venture on land to rest, breed, and raise their young. Breeding colonies are usually near the shore, though some species move as far as 2 miles (3 kilometers) inland. Some breeding habitats are in snow, while others are on tropical islands.

Penguins eat squid, fish, and crustaceans such as crabs and shrimp. What they prefer depends on the species. When they are hunting prey, penguins dive deep and stay underwater for long periods of time. Depending on the species, they can stay underwater for less than a minute up to eighteen minutes at depths ranging from 98 feet (30 meters) to 1,755 feet (535 meters).

Historically, penguins were killed for food and the extraction of the oil that lay in their fat. The oil was used for lighting and fuel. Penguins are easy prey because they are not afraid of humans and so are easily captured. In the days of the explorers, it was common for the adventurers to kill three thousand penguins a day for food.

Despite protection, penguins are still illegally hunted for use as bait and as a food source.

Twelve species are included on the 2003 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. The Galápagos, erect-crested, and yellow-eyed penguins are Endangered, facing a very high risk of extinction; seven species are Vulnerable, facing a high risk of extinction; and two are Near Threatened, in danger of becoming threatened with extinction.

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Animal Life ResourceBirds