Hungry Penguins

In my last blog, I made an effort to become the #1 Google hit for the search term “falcons eat penguins”. My silly idea apparently succeeded and now I have plans for world domination. Soon every Google search result will lead to an article about animals. I don’t have any graduate classes today due to snow, so instead of taking an ornithology lab exam on bird anatomy, I’m going to write about penguins. The only thing that disappoints me is that I was looking forward to playing with ostrich hearts and eyes. Now that I’ve made you hungry, let’s talk about penguins.

Penguins are well known for their inability to fly, but did you know that one species of penguin in Africa can run at speeds of over 40 mph when being pursued by a lion? Or that penguins at the San Diego Zoo once broke out of their enclosure and raided the fish displays? If you knew these things, please stop believing everything you read . . . except for my blog, of course. When you think about penguins, you probably imagine places like Antarctica; cold, frozen lands surrounded by water. However, a number of penguin species actually live in the southern regions of South America, Africa, and Australia. There are also numerous islands across the Southern Hemisphere which contain penguin colonies. Though you may imagine penguins around the North Pole, all 17 species of penguins live south of the equator. The one exception is the Galapagos Penguin, which lives on the Galapagos Islands around the equator.

Galapagos penguin swimming

Hey guys! I love the warm weather!

Galapagos Penguins occupy the smallest range of the penguins and also have the smallest population size. Weighing in at around 5.5 pounds, these little penguins have adapted to a warmer climate than their cousins. One option to evade the heat is to jump in the water. When on land, they are able to withstand warm temperatures by opening their flippers to increase blood flow, hunching over to shade their feet, and panting to release heat. Galapagos Penguins feed mostly on small fish like sardines, but will occasionally munch on giant squid shrimp. They especially enjoy dipping shrimp into the volcanic deposits found within the Galapagos Islands, because hot shrimp are better than raw shrimp.

Galapagos penguins hunting fish

IT’S A BUFFET!!

Galapagos Penguins tend to mate for life and pairs will sometimes engage in displays using their bills. I guess that’s the closest penguins can get to kissing. Interestingly enough, these penguins can adapt their breeding periods to changing weather patterns. El Nino can lead to warmer water temperatures with fewer nutrients, which affects levels of plankton. This reduction in food sources affects the fish population, which is bad for the penguins. In such cases, the Galapagos Penguins may refrain from breeding due to the lack of food. When the water temperatures cool back down and food sources increase, the penguins get their game on and start having chicks. These penguins will often nest along coastal rocks or inside small caves. Penguin parents usually take good care of their young and will offer them tasty meals of regurgitated fish.

Galapagos penguin chick begging adult for food Yummy!

Never underestimate the fierce hunger of a juvenile penguin. Young penguins can eat twice their weight in a single meal. If you’re wondering about the credibility of that last sentence, go listen to some politicians talk for a few minutes. I wonder if penguin chicks ever get sick of the same food. “Mullet again? I ate 15 pounds of that last week! Do we have any crab legs?” One penguin species down, 16 to go! I’ve got a lot more to write about penguins, but that’s all for now. May you eat like a penguin!

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