How are Penguins Different from Other Birds

When you look up the biological classification of a penguin, you will observe that they are classified as marine birds. But how are penguins different from other birds? Well, there are many ways in which penguins share their physical characteristics with other birds. But at the same time, penguins are different from birds in many ways. These differences don’t mean that penguins are not birds, they are simply birds of a different kind and their habitat and way of living is uncommon for most birds.

In this article, we are going to take a look at some of the ways in which penguins are different from other birds.

1) Penguins Have Different Sizes

There are nearly 17 types of penguins, with the largest being Emperor penguins at 3.7 ft and the smallest being the fairy penguins or the little penguins at 16-18 inches. Penguins that live in the cold Antarctic regions are larger in size, and as they move away from the Antarctic region, the species of penguins grow smaller in size. Penguins prefer to live in colder regions, and even though some species of penguins are found near the equator, they live near the areas that can supply them with lower temperatures.

2) Penguins Have Solid Bones

While other birds have hollow bones that make them lightweight enough to fly in the air, penguins have solid bones as these are helpful when penguins have to swim in the water. Solid bones give penguins the weight and mass needed to swim deeper into the water.

3) Penguins Can’t Fly

Penguins lost their ability to fly because swimming in the water had a better evolutionary advantage for them. Their wings turned into solid flippers that they use to propel themselves through the water. The swimming motion of penguins is still similar to a flying motion that birds exhibit, and if you observed carefully, it looks like the penguins are flying underwater when they swim.

4) Penguins Spend More Time in Water

As penguins catch fish and krill as their primary food, they spend most of their time in the water. Penguins come to the shore only when they have to breed, lay eggs, or molt. In case they are trying to escape from a predator, they might come to the shore if they can’t outswim the predator in water.

5) Penguins Are Excellent Swimmers

Compared to other flightless birds, penguins are great swimmers. When swimming, the penguin’s body shape is like a torpedo for maximum speed through the water. They use their flippers and their feet to move through the water and use their tail to change directions when swimming. Penguins can also dive deep in search for food and Emperor penguins are known to hold their breath underwater for long periods of time.

6) Penguins can Drink Salt Water

Penguins are biologically equipped to drink salt water as their body has specific glands that can filter out the salt from the water and make it fit for consumption. Penguins then sneeze out the excess salt through their nose.

7) Penguins Stand Upright on Land

As penguins have a unique bone structure with their knees tucked in close to their body and flippers to their sides, they tend to stand upright when on land. This makes it difficult for them to walk and they waddle or move in short hops when on land.

8) Penguins Live in Harsh Antarctic Regions

Emperor penguins live in some of the harshest weather conditions known to man. As temperatures fall to several degrees below zero, Emperor penguins will huddle with each other to brave the cold winds and low temperatures. They prefer to lay their eggs in the thick of winter so that by the time the eggs have hatched, it’s summer when chicks have a better chance of survival.


It is easy to see from the above-mentioned points how penguins are different from other birds in so many ways. From their dietary habits to their habitats, they are unique and fascinating birds that are still a mystery to us in many ways. Scientists are still studying penguins and their habits so that they can learn more about these birds and ensure our future generations are able to see these beautiful birds in their natural habitats.

So the next time someone asks you how penguins are different from other birds, you can answer them with the points discussed in this article. Do you have any thoughts on how penguins are different from other birds? Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section. If you have any questions about penguins, our team will be more than happy to answer them for you.



I got interested in penguins from a young age and as I grew I realized that penguins are such fascinating birds. I made it a mission to create a website where all information about penguins could be accessed in an easy to read format.

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