Do penguins have feathers?

The age old question – do penguins have feathers? The answer is most definitely yes!


Physical Characteristics of Penguins

Penguins belong to the class Aves.  This class has several communal characteristics that include feathers, wings (or in this case flippers), laying eggs, and being warm-blooded; which includes all birds.  Penguins are indeed flightless, and spend a lot of time in the water, however, they are still considered a bird.

Penguin feathers actually make up a rather thick layer of their outer surface.  Although not very long the feathers are significant in number.  FYI penguin onesies exist – want a little extra feather warmth?

What are the feathers used for?

Not only do our fuzzy friends have feathers, but they are multifunctional as well!  A penguins’ feathers may not allow them to fly but they still have a very important role in heat regulation and waterproofing.

A downy layer of feathers keeps the penguin warm by trapping air for insulation (similar to the way many mammals trap air in their fur coats for warmth).  Meanwhile, the outer layer is waterproof allowing these birds to dive into ice cold water without freezing.  Heat loss in water is significantly increased when compared to that of air so the ability to maintain their body temperature underwater is a major component to penguin survival.

Penguins are also able to cool off by making their feathers stand up which allows the release of warm insulating air – pretty cool!  This is often accompanied by wing flapping to speed up the process.

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Interested in learning more about penguins? Check out these awesome resources.

New Zealand Penguins

Birds Flight…

Seaworld Parks and Entertainment……

Penguin Info…

Encyclopedia Britannica…

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6 Responses

  1. Barb says:

    Thanks for this wonderful article on whether penguins have feathers.

    Gee, I wish I had penguin feathers in the winter time! It amazes me how they can swim in freezing cold water.

    Also, the fact that they can cool off by releasing the warm air is really cool! Are all species of penguins capable of this or only certain species?

    • admin says:

      Great question Barb!

      The majority, if not all penguins species are capable of this thermoregulation pattern 🙂

  2. Chris says:

    ive often wondered about whether penguins have feathers and even though it is a simple question, I’ve actually got multiple different answers from different people. this article cleared everything up and answered the question precisely and gave me all the information i was looking for in regards to what the feathers are used for and more

  3. Roy says:

    This was a very interesting article to read and I enjoyed it very much. Was going to say that I wish they would make winter clothing from penguin feathers but that would be cruel.
    You are obviously passionate about penguins. A very enlightening article. Many thanks, you taught me a lot.

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