It’s hard not to fall in love with waddling, tuxedo-wearing penguins, which is why it feels extra depressing that many species of these black-and-white beauties are struggling to survive. We may not be able to reverse all of the damage already done to their natural habitats, but there’s plenty we can all do now to help them have a brighter future.
They have waterproof feathers
Penguins’ feathers are coated in a waterproof oil produced by an adaptive gland called the preen gland, shares Corbin Maxey, an animal expert and biologist. Penguin chicks, however, do not have waterproof feathers, which is why they stay out of the water. Penguins also have a higher feather density than most birds, more than 100 feathers per square inch, and at the base of each feather is a small muscle that holds the feather tightly to the body to trap warm air, explains Maxey.
Their “tuxedo” isn’t just a fashion statement
Counter-shading, or camouflage, helps penguins hide from predators or prey in the water, says Maxey. When viewed from below, their white bellies blend in with the light near the surface of the sea. When viewed from above, their black backs are hard to see in deep, dark water. Don’t miss these 17 photos of adorable baby animals will brighten your day.
But they aren’t just black and white
According to Antonio Fernandez, a senior aviculturist at SeaWorld Orlando who has been working with penguins for 18 years, more than half of the species have colored feathers either on their head or on their bodies. Rockhopper and Macaroni penguins, for example, have yellow or orange feather crests that look like wild tufts of hair, while Emperor and King penguins are marked with yellow and orange patches on their heads, necks, and chests.