Image source: Derdento
Antarctic Penguins on the move
Penguins Live in Large Flocks
Among the birds that cannot fly are Penguins. They are sea birds and their narrow wings, which are covered with scaly feathers, are rather like flippers. From a distance penguins resemble solemn little men as they stand bolt upright or waddle along on their large webbed feet, which are set far back under the body. Some kinds of penguins have white fronts like shirts. They are very attractive birds and photograph well.
There are many kinds of penguins, but they all live in the southern half of the world. Many live on the mainland and islands of Antarctica, and the farthest north they are found is the Galapagos Islands on the equator.
Penguins live in large flocks and breed in groups known as rookeries. Although they look quaint on land, they are wonderfully swift swimmers, both on the surface of the water and under it. They pursue fish which they catch with their sharp, pointed beaks. On land they sometimes slide down a slope on their stomachs, propelling themselves along with their feet. Penguins have few enemies, though the fierce leopard seal sometimes catches them in the water.
The largest penguin is the magnificent emperor penguin, which stands between three and four feet tall. It has the general colour scheme of all penguins - black back, head and flippers and white front - but it is beautifully marked with black on the throat and has a broad, semi-circular patch of orange-yellow on each side of the upper neck. Emperor penguins live in the depths of the Antarctic, among snow and ice, and so are seldom seen in zoos.
King penguins, however, live farther north and so are much easier to capture and bring to Europe. They are the second largest members of the penguin family, and besides being smaller, they can be distinguished from the emperors by the different arrangement of the orange and black on the neck.
Emperor and King penguins have very interesting breeding habits. Both lay only one egg at a time, and this is balanced on the feet of the parent. A flap of skin hangs down and keeps the cold away from the egg. When one parent gets tired of holding the egg, it rolls it off on to the feet of the other, but any other penguin without an egg of its own will help in the hatching. The young bird stays on its parents’ feet and keeps warm there for a time after it hatches.
Other penguins breed on rocky islands and lay two eggs in a hollow in the ground or among rocks. A rough nest is made of bits of grass, or the hollow is lined with small stones. Among these penguins are the rock-hopper and the macaroni penguins.
The rock-hopper penguin is found from Patagonia in South America to the edge of the Antarctic. It has a crest and on each side of the head there are pale yellow feathers ending in plumes at the back. The macaroni penguin, which lives in the southern Atlantic and Indian oceans, is a slightly larger bird. It has golden-orange feathers across its forehead and along the side of the crown.
The jackass penguin, which is found on the coasts of South Africa, has a curious braying call when on land, from which it gets its name. It makes long tunnels in which it lays its eggs. Similar penguins are found on the west coast of South America and in the Galapagos Islands.
The smallest kind of penguin is the little, or fairy, penguin which lives in the sea around Australia and New Zealand. It stands about a foot high and the feathers are blue-grey on the back and white on the front.
The Adelie penguin is the common small penguin of the Antarctic continent and the islands close to it. It is a dark blue-black on its upper parts and head, with dazzling white breast. The brown eye has a white ring around it which gives it a comic appearance like a toy come to life.