Penguins are species of birds that do not fly; they belong to the family of Spheniscidae. The name penguin originated from the Welsh “pen gwyn” that means white head. At first these flightless bird from northern hemisphere were known as ‘Great Auks’ but, this name became extinct in 19th century (Gilpin, 2007). Penguins have a much heavier skeleton as compared to other birds, this prohibits them from flying. They also have bones which are considerably denser, giving them greater strength but reducing their buoyancy. The first fossil of penguins was discovered during the 19th century, and it was estimated to be about 25 million years old. All the penguin species are native to the southern hemisphere. To date, no penguin fossil has ever been discovered in the northern hemisphere (Johnson & Torue, 2007).
. Penguins feed on krill, fish, squid and other sea life that are caught while they dive under the water. They are considered semi-aquatic, flightless birds, which spend part of their life on land and part of life in the water. The surplus body fat of the penguins makes easier for them to live in extreme cold conditions (Love, 1997).
Although there are 20 different types of penguins; out of these 17 are well described. The penguins are divided into 6 groups. The largest, stiff-tailed, tropical, crested and muscled Emperor is classified under the largest group. Emperor has a height of 3.5 feet; weighs 70-90 pounds, lives in the Antarctic and lays 1 egg which is incubated by the male. Its head and eyes are black. They have orange and yellow spots around the ears and the throat. They have long, thin and purple beaks that are striped orange. During the Antarctic winter (when temperature is as low -80oC and total absence of the sunlight) the Emperor inhabit this part of the world.
The egg laid by the female is incubating in the brooding pouch of the male. While the female is away at the sea feeding, the male hibernates for 3-4 months as it seat on the egg. After this, the female returns to take over the care of newly hatched chick while the male takes his turn to look for food. Skua gulls are the predators of Emperor penguins. The life expectant of this species of penguins is estimated at 50 years (Gilpin, 2007).
King penguins are also classified under the largest family; weighing 30-45 pounds and standing at the height on 3 feet; these penguins live on the islands of Sub Antarctic. They also lay one egg over a period of 18 month which is incubated by both male and the female in turns. This group of penguins has a long orange beaks and bright orange collars. Once the egg hatch, both parents take turns in caring for the chick. A chick weans at the age of 10 month after which they are introduced to the sea to search for food. They mostly eat fish and Skua gulla are only predators of these penguins (Love, 1997).
Adelie is another class of penguins that has a stiff tail it weighs about 8 to14 pounds, and have a height of 2.5 feet, these penguins live on the coasts of Antarctica. Their heads and beaks are black and eyes are black with a white ring. They live at the sea and at the pack ice during winter. In summer, they go to Rookery and build their nests along the coast. The nests are designed to protect the eggs from rolling away and to keep under the right temperature. Unlike the other species discussed above, Adelie female lays 2 eggs. The male sits on the eggs for 40 days before they hatch. The chicks are protected from the Skua gulls, the only predators of the penguins. parents feed chicks and keep them warm. After the 8th weeks, chicks are left on their own. Due to this early abandonment, the chicks fall prey of the leopard seals. The male penguins search for a female mate by making loud noises (Gilpin, 2007).
Chinstrap is another species of penguin, it weighs 8 to14 pounds and it stands about 28 inches tall. Mostly the Chinstrap lives in Antarctic Peninsula and at the nearby islands. It has white tint on the front and black backs while the eyes are brown and a black beaks. Its name came from the black line under its white chin. Its rookeries are large with some having millions of penguins. The female lays two eggs which are incubated by both parents. The chicks are gray and hatch in 35 days; chicks remain in the nests for 20-30 days and go to sea after 60 days. Skua gulls are their main predators. They make a shrill call. Chinstrap penguins are also stiff tailed penguins (Love, 1997).
Magellanic is Tropical penguin which is 28 inches tall, shy, weighs 6 to 15 pounds and inhabits regions around Argentina, Southern Chile and the Falkland Islands. It is characterized with a black back, white belly and colored rings around their face and chest. From April through August they spend at the sea and from September through March at rookeries. Female lays 2 eggs and both parents incubate the eggs. Chicks go to sea when they are 70 days old. They are hunted by orcas and skua gulls. (Love, 1997).
Humboldt, African penguins and Galapagos penguins are classified under the tropical group of penguins. The Humboldt is 26 inches tall, weigh on average 10 pounds and live on the coasts of Peru and Chile and across nearby islands. This penguin has one black chest stripe and long flippers. They build their nest in burrows and the female lays 2 eggs. They eat small fish such as anchovies and sardines. They are estimated to be 10,000 left as fisherman catch anchovies so there is not enough food for these penguins. Their nesting places have also been destroyed. It is a shy penguin and never seen in large groups (Johnson & Torue, 2007).
Macaroni penguin grouped under the crested group of penguins. It is 28 inches tall and weighs 10 to 15 pounds, lives in the Sub Antarctic and they orange tinted with a thin orange stripe on the forehead. The eyes are red and have an orange beak. Half of the year they stay at the sea. They stay in big rookeries sometimes even millions are together in a rookery. They build their nests on very high hills from pebbles and twigs. They do not like their nests to be bothered and they lay 2 eggs. The first egg is smaller and mostly does not hatch. After laying the second egg, the female pushes the first egg out of the nest. Chick hatches in 5 weeks; the male does not eat when protecting the chicks. After 10 weeks the chick is ready to go to the sea feed on krill and squid. The female and the male stay together for their entire their life and will even attack people who try getting any closer to the young ones. In this group we have other groups of penguins such as; Rock hopper, Royal, Erect-Crested, Fiordland and Snares Island (Gilpin, 2007).
A yellow-eyed penguin is another category of penguins; these are 26 inches tall, weigh about 10 pounds and lives in the southern New Zealand. It has yellow, cat-like eyes and a yellow strip of feathers around its head like a crown. They do not form large rookeries. They make their nests in tall grass, under rocks or in burrows. The female lays 2 eggs and both the parents take turns incubating the eggs. They hatch after 50 days and the chicks are protected by one parent while the other goes to the sea to search for food. Chicks are on their own when they are 106 days old. Their enemies are the wild cats, ferrets and stoats who often kill chicks and eat the eggs. Adult penguins are also eaten by dogs. It’s a shy bird that will walk away if you get closer to it. At night they come on land. They share the islands with rabbits and can live up to 23 years (Love, 1997).
In conclusion, this paper discusses a small group of penguins that is known as Little Blue or Fairy penguin this is 14 to 15 inches tall and weighs around 3 pounds. They live in the southern Australia and New Zealand. These are the smallest of penguins’ family. They are grey-blue in color with white bellies and build nests on rocks or under thick plants. If the ground is soft they will dig their own burrows. Sometimes they form rookeries but mostly they just live in a pairs. The female lays 2 eggs and both male and female brood them. One parent is assigned the role of staying with the chick after hatching. At the age of 8 weeks, the chicks are left on their own to feed on fish, squid, and krill. They appear as if they are wearing blue ‘tuxedos’ and are very noisy penguins. (Johnson & Torue, 2007). Due to the limited time and other resources this paper has just covered the major classes of penguins.