This coming Thursday, January 20 is National Penguin Awareness Day (not to be confused with World Penguin Day in April), when penguins get a day in the spotlight. And what’s not to love? These flightless sea birds are adorable both as chicks and as adults. They waddle when they walk with their stubby wings awkwardly splayed out from their sides. And then there are the heartwarming images of male Emperor penguins huddled together against the frigid Antarctic cold with an egg nestled on top of their feet.
Depending on who you talk to, there are 17-20 different species of penguins, all in the southern hemisphere. Many of these species live in Antarctica, but not all of them live in cold climates. Some live in much more hospitable places like the Galapagos, South America, Africa, New Zealand, and Australia.
What penguins lack in agility on land, they more than make up for in the ocean. In fact, in the ocean they are expert swimmers, some reaching speeds of over 20 miles per hour. They can even leap out of the water like a dolphin as they swim! Penguins spend most of their lives in the water, which is why they sport the black and white tuxedo. When they are in the water, from above their black backs blend them into the murky depths. From below, a penguin’s white belly camouflages them against the bright sky.
The purpose of National Penguin Awareness Day is a day to bring attention to the environmental issues that penguins face (2/3 are listed as threatened), and to promote conservation and research. Learn more at Penguins International to see how you can help!