Tuesday, December 29, 2015


Many mammals are good swimmers. It might surprise you to know that tigers are good swimmers.

Photo credit: Scarlettletters – Deviant Art

Sloths are good swimmers.

Photo credit: John Williams

We even learned in one of my recent blog posts, that snakes fly! Okay, they glide, but close enough, and yes, snakes are reptiles, not mammals, but they’re really cool gliders. 

Photo credit: Ideastream.org

While we're on the subject of flying, we should also mention that there are a few birds that can fly underwater, but most can’t do it for long periods of time, and most only do it to capture food. There is one bird that can fly underwater, but can’t fly through the air, and that’s the penguin. And the penguin just happens to be the subject of this week’s blog post. In particular, we will talk about the African Penguin, but first a bit about penguins and where penguins live.

There are seventeen species of penguin and they all live in the southern hemisphere. Many of them live on Antarctica. They can also be found on the southern coasts of South America, Australia, New Zealand, the Galapagos Islands and Africa.

Photo credit: Kidzone.ws

The African Penguin is the only penguin that lives on the southern coasts of Africa and it is endangered.

This species of penguin has very distinctive markings. There is a black upside down ‘U’ on their chests, along with a number of speckles. He looks very spiffy, don't you think? 

The African Penguin is a colonial breeder. That means that pairs of them will return to the same site year after year to mate and raise their chicks.

I still remember, as a child, discovering that penguins actually have feathers like every other bird. I thought that they simply had skin, somewhat like dolphins or sharks. Their coats looked so smooth to me. I knew they were a bird, but it just didn’t make sense at the time. You know, a bird without wings that doesn't chirp or flit from tree to tree. 

Turns out that their ‘wings’ aren’t really wings at all, they’re flippers, but they are covered with feathers. Strangely enough, the feathers on the flippers are not waterproof like those on the rest of the penguin’s body. The feathers on birds of the air are also waterproof. Both types of birds have waterproof feathers for two separate but related reasons; penguins to cut down on drag in water, and birds of the air to cut down on drag in the atmosphere.

Another major difference between the penguin and those birds we see outside sitting on a branch, is their bones. Birds of the air have hollow bones. This cuts down on their weight making it easier to fly. Penguin bones are solid. This helps them to be buoyant and gives them added weight in the water.  One more interesting fact for you; penguin flippers are hard and are sometimes used as weapons!

All adult penguins are dark on the dorsal, or back surface and white on the ventral surface, or underside. This is called ‘countershaded.’ This coloring helps to protect them while they swim. You see, the dorsal side blends with the dark ocean when viewed from above, and the ventral, or lighter side, blends with the lighter surface of the ocean when viewed from below. Really cool! It's a kind of underwater camouflage. 

Photo credit: Yi Jiang

The population of the African Penguin has declined. It is estimated that the current population is ten present of what it was at the turn of the 20th century. The initial fall of numbers was caused by the over collecting of their eggs for food. In recent years, fishing  by people has depleted their stock of food, and oil spills have taken a major toll on the African Penguin. There is also great competition between the penguin and native seals for the food supply.

The African Penguin was declared an endangered species in 2010 by the IUCN*. All of the African Penguin breeding areas are now protected in an effort to ensure their survival. There has also been intervention to help those penguins affected by oil spills. Hopefully, all this help will go a long way to keep the species alive. 

Enjoy this video about African Penguin love. 

There is so much more to learn about penguins, and if you’d like to do so, you can visit the following very interesting and informative sites:

*IUCN – International Union for Conservation of Nature

My sincere thanks to Arkive for some of the information and photos (www.arkive.org).

Best wishes to all my readers for a Happy and Healthy New Year and for making my blog such a success.


Jeanne E. Rogers, Award Winning Author
The Sword of Demelza and The Gift of Sunderland
Middle Grade Fantasy Where Endangered Animal Heroes Roam the Pages!