How do Penguins Communicate?

If you have seen penguins in a zoo or on TV, you might have wondered how do penguins communicate. There are many ways for penguins to communicate and they are expressive birds that make use of body language, vocalization and different types of vocal tones to express how they are feeling. Penguins can get quite aggressive if another penguin is trying to steal their mate, their nesting place or their eggs.

In a way, getting angry is also a form of communication and penguins excel at that. Penguins will make a barking or braying sound at other penguins to keep them away from their mate or their nesting place. Another way that makes communication a prime function for penguins is during mating when penguins bow and dance around each other to impress their mate and also inform other penguins that they have chosen a mate.

In the harsh Antarctic environment, communication becomes essential for the survival of penguins, and they use different methods of communication to express themselves effectively. Penguin chicks will often make begging peeps to their parents when they need food. Jackass penguins are also known for making vocal calls when they are angry, sad, or lonely. Let’s take a quick look at the detailed way in which penguins communicate with each other.

1) Vocal Communication

Penguins are loud when they want to communicate with each other through voice. A penguin’s vocal call can sound like a loud braying or a shrill scream depending on the reason they are making that noise. The loud noises also act as a deterrent against predators that might be looking for penguin’s eggs or penguin chicks. Penguins also make loud sounds to warn other penguins against predators in their vicinity.

In large colonies, penguins recognize their mate by listening to their unique voice. Parents can also recognize the sounds that their chicks make. The interesting fact here is that penguins can isolate the sounds made by their mate or chick from many other noisy penguins in a colony.

Penguins Can Find Their Mate By Recognizing Vocal Patterns
King penguin walking

Penguins also use vocal communication during courtship for selecting a mate. The male and female penguins will squawk loudly at each other while doing their courtship dance. Once a female penguin has chosen a mate, the pair makes braying noises to advertise their companionship.

Gentoo penguins also make buzzing noises when they are out at sea, hunting for food. By making these sounds, penguins keep the pack together so that they have a better chance of finding fish or krill.

2) Visual Communication

Penguins of all species perform physical displays as a way to communicate. Along with vocal communication, penguins also use their body movements to communicate with other penguins. While courting, penguins perform an elaborate courtship dance where a penguin will stretch its neck upwards and spread its wings to move them rapidly in order to attract a mate.

Penguins Can Communicate Through Physical Display
penguin body movement

Once a penguin is able to successfully attract a female, he will swing his head or move his flippers to display possession of a nesting site. This display also acts as a warning to other penguins to stay away from the site. When paired with a female, the penguins will conduct a mutual display where they rub their bills and necks with each other to show to all other penguins that they are a pair.

Penguins will also bow down to each other and point to another’s a bill or the nest as a display of submission or to reduce any instances of aggression. The bowing display also increases recognition between a pair of penguins. Penguins continue such mutual displays with their mate even while raising their chicks and incubating eggs.


Penguins communicate in many different ways with each other. Vocalizations, body language, and posturing are some of the ways in which penguins communicate and express themselves in front of other penguins. Penguins are also very loud as the braying calls of King and Emperor penguins can be heard as far as 1 kilometer away.

As they live in harsh environments and highly populated colonies, communication becomes essential for penguins to survive and advance their species. Their vocal and physical display also plays a vital role in mating rituals and protection from other penguins when they are raising their chicks. Penguins also warn each other about dangers from predators by making loud sounds.

So what do you think about the ways in which penguins communicate with each other? Do you think there are any other ways that penguins can express themselves? Do let us know your thoughts in the comment section. If you have any questions or queries about penguins, please feel free to ask those and our team will do its best to give you the right answers.


Image Source:

  1. King penguin walking by Pixel-mixer / Pixabay License
  2. penguin body movement by derdento / Pixabay License

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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