Penguins

I They are small white and black bird like creatures that live incold regions. Penguins are the most fascinating creature around.

A Most penguins have a white breast and a black back and head. Many species exhibit red, orange, or yellow patches on the head and neck. Because their short legs are placed far back on their bodies, penguins assume an upright posture.

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B Penguins are grouped into 18 species and 6 genera, most ofwhich are found in Antarctica and on subantarctic islands.Others are native to the coasts of Australia, South Africa, and South America and to the Galapagos Islands.

C The largest species are the king penguin, from 36 to 38 inches in height, and the emperor penguin, which may attain a height of more than 48 inches. Both species are found on the Antarctic ice barrier. The king penguin is also found in Tierra del Fuego and on eight islands in the southern hemisphere. The smallest penguin is the little blue penguin of Australia and New Zealand; its height is 16 inches or less. Unlike most species, the king, emperor, and little penguins have blue-gray backs. Another distinguishing feature of the king and emperor penguins is the presence of bright reddish or pinkish shields on the sides of their mandibles and large orange or yellow patches on the sides of their necks.

D Although descended from flying ancestors, penguins havebecome highly specialized for swimming; their stiffly held wings resemble the paddles of other swimming vertebrates. Penguins do not have specific feather tracts, as do mostbirds, but are covered almost uniformly with small, scalelike feathers. Whereas most birds shed their feathers and grow new ones during a relatively long period of theyear, penguins molt all of their feathers and, in somespecies, even shed the shields from the beak within a shortspace of time. A molting penguin has a swollen, untidyappearance; it loses its feathers in huge patches as newfeathers appear. During the molting period, which may last several weeks, the penguin does not enter the water tofeed.
A The ability to withstand intense cold is one of the penguin’sgreatest assets. Most penguins have rather small feet, wings,and heads; the relatively little surface area which resultsin excellent heat conservation. In addition, many penguins have a thick insulating layer of fat under the skin. Some species are better equipped for cold weather than others. The emperor penguin appears to be the best equipped ofall.

A Penguins usually walk or hop and toboggan along on theirbreasts, pushing with wings and feet. They swim with great speed and agility. The flippers are their sole means ofpropulsion; the feet are used for steering. Some speciesprogress by purposing, which is swimming underwater somedistance, emerging in a graceful arc to take a fresh breath, and submerging again. Penguins feed on fish, cuttlefish,crustaceans, and other small sea animals.

A Penguins are gregarious birds and are found in flocks even atsea. On land the colonies often number in the hundreds of thousands. Although the birds have suffered greatly at the hands of humans, who have slaughtered great numbers for theirblubber and, more recently, for their skins, the inaccessibility of the Antarctic region has helped preservethe group. Natural enemies of the penguin include leopardseals, killer whales, and, in the case of young chicks and eggs, skuas.

Penguins are wonderful gentle creatures. I hope you like them as much as I do.
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