Why Penguins?

We all love them! They are just adorable, they are cute, they can cuddle, they waddle upright and can toboggan on the ice, they have most hilarious fluffy-ball chicks, and even though they can be awkward and get dirty, when they stand up and show off their glory, there is no other more elegant and stately animal on Earth.
For my paintings of penguins, go to Artwork.

Interesting facts about penguins

  • Penguins are aquatic birds native to the Southern Hemisphere. There are about 20 known species of penguins.
  • Emperor Penguin is the only species that breeds during the Antarctic winter, when it’s dark and savagely cold, with wind chills as cold as -60°C and blizzards of 200km/h. It is the male Emperor which incubates a single egg each breeding season on the top of their feet in a skin fold.
  • Emperor Penguin is a true record holder: he can dive to depths of 565 metres and can stay underwater for about 20 minutes!
  • Contrary to popular knowledge, penguins are not monogamous, so they don’t mate for life.  Emperor penguins normally partner with one mate for one breeding season only. Similarly King penguins. Infidelity is common, some species like Adélie penguins, that build nests out of stones, the female will mate with other males in exchange for pebbles.
  • Emperor penguins survive by huddling together for warmth. Even though they are close together in a huddle, they do not quite touch, to make the most out of the insulating value of their feathers. They take turns to occupy the coldest most exposed outside positions, following one another in a continuous procession, passing through the warm centre of the huddle and eventually returning back to the windward edge. The temperature inside a huddle can be as high as +24°C.
  • If you were a penguin, it is the beak which is actually the sexy part of the penguin (for a potential partner), so the beauty is in the eye of the beak-holder. Penguins (Emperors and Kings) can identify their mates by Ultra-Violet reflectance of their bills (beaks). UV is invisible to humans but like many other birds penguins can see UV light. The UV structure of their beaks plays an important role in mutual attraction, selecting and identifying the partner, when females return to breeding colony of up to a thousands of birds.
Interesting facts about penguins
  • Keeping penguins in captivity is a controversial issue for profit-driven reasons. All Antarctic species are not easy to keep, they contract easily diseases and are very vulnerable to stress in an environment so different from their natural habitat. For example the Adelie and Emperor penguins require chilled housing, and there are only about 4 Zoos in the world which keep the Emperor penguin (two of them are in Japan).
  • Penguins seem to have no special fear of humans, and have approached groups of explorers without hesitation. This is probably because penguins have no land predators in Antarctica or the nearby offshore islands.
  • Colonies of penguins in Antarctica, such as Emperor penguin, can be spot using satellite mapping technology by their poo. It was found there are 44 colonies around the coast of Antarctica, with 7 previously unknown.

Famous penguins

Nils Olav

Nils Olav is the only penguin with a military career. He is King penguin and resides in Edinburgh Zoo. The current reigning penguin’s, Nils Olav III, rank is that of Brigadier. He is the mascot and colonel-in-chief of the Norwegian King’s Guard. Nils Olav is promoted each time the Norwegian King’s Guard makes a visit to Edinburgh.

Mumble & Happy Feet

Mumble is a male Emperor penguin, the main protagonist of Happy Feet, 2006 computer-animated musical film. Mumble can’t sing a single note but instead he can tap dance brilliantly.

A young emperor penguin was once found on the beach in New Zealand. He had consumed 3 kg of sand, which he had mistaken for snow, as well as stones, and had to undergo a number of operations to remove these to save his life.  Following recovery, he was named Happy Feet and released into the southern ocean.


Since Moët Penguin started promoting Moët & Chandon Ice Impérial, the first and only champagne created especially to be enjoyed over ice, it became a summer sensation and their sales picked up, from being on the verge of being delisted in the UK.


Who doesn’t know Tux the penguin? Commonly used icon for Linux and brand character of Linux kernel. The creator of Linux Linus Torvalds, once joked that he contracted “penguinitis” after he was bitten by a little penguin on a visit to the National Zoo in Australia.


  • Rarest penguin on Earth, perhaps the only one Emperor Penguin with all-black appearance, due to a genetic mutation.
  • In theoretical physics there is a penguin diagram. It is a class of Feynman diagrams which are loop diagrams. In a nutshell, penguin is a process where one flavor of matter particle changes into another flavor while emitting a photon (or gluon), which is pretty rare in the Standard Model and can get enhancements from the new physics. John Ellis was the first to use the name “penguin diagrams”, due in part to their shape, and in part to a bar-room bet he lost, requiring him to put the word penguin into his next paper.
  • Who doesn’t know Tux the penguin? Commonly used icon for Linux and brand character of Linux kernel. The creator of Linux Linus Torvalds, once joked that he contracted “penguinitis” after he was bitten by a little penguin on a visit to the National Zoo in Australia.
Penguins spotted on a balcony in Vienna
Penguins spotted on a balcony in Vienna. Photo courtesy of Reiner F. Schulz

Warning 😉

Some people may suffer from O.P.D. (Obsessive Penguin Disorder), not to be confused with Penguinitis. Both are incurable and for the disorder there is no known therapy, except a penguin, a teddy-penguin or a mascot-penguin, can improve the symptoms in most cases. They vary, from wearing T-shirts with penguins, to feeling the need to hug penguins.

If you know of any interesting facts about penguins or any famous penguins, please share them with me . Questions or comments?