Where Do Penguins Live

Many people associate penguins with ice and snow, and assume that penguins make their homes at the North Pole and South Pole. In reality, penguins do not live at either of the Earth’s poles. If their habitats do not include the polar landscapes of the Arctic Circle or the geographic South Pole, where do penguins live? The surprising truth is that penguins occupy habitats located on every continent in the Southern Hemisphere.
Cold, icy Antarctica is home to the largest and most famous species of penguin, the Emperor penguin. While these and other penguins do live at the outermost edges of Antarctica, they do not live at the South Pole itself. Although most penguins prefer colder climates, at least ten penguin species live in temperate zones with warmer climates. For example, the Galapagos penguin lives as far north as the Galapagos islands, near the equator. The cold waters of the Humboldt Current allow Galapagos penguins to survive this warm climate. Other penguin species live in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and South America. Warmer islands north of Antarctica are home to another large species of penguin, the King penguin. Because they are unable to fly to escape danger, penguins tend to live on islands or in isolated continental areas that are free of most land predators.
Whether they live in temperate or cold regions, all penguins need to live near water and depend on cold currents that provide plenty of food. The typical penguin diet consists of fish, squid and a variety of crustaceans. Although penguins cannot fly, they are excellent swimmers who spend about 75 percent of their lives in the water. A penguin’s body is designed for life in the water, with a streamlined shape and feathers that allow them to regulate body temperature and move through water with ease. These highly specialized sea birds are able to swim up to 100 kilometers without resting. While penguins spend most of their lives at sea, all penguins come ashore to molt, breed and raise chicks.
Like other animals, some penguins migrate. The habitats of these penguins change throughout the year as they move from breeding grounds to feeding areas. While some penguins travel only a short distance during migration, others travel very far. Young penguins often leave their colonies to explore, sometimes wandering thousands of kilometers before returning home to molt and breed.
Most penguins build nests to protect their eggs and chicks during the breeding season, just as other birds do. Many penguins use rocks, sticks, molted feathers or other materials to build their nests. Emperor and King penguins do not build nests, instead incubating eggs on the tops of their feet under a fold of abdominal skin. This fold of skin is called a brood patch, and contains numerous blood vessels that transfer body heat to the egg.