Which animal species is called a “raft” when grouped on water, a “colony” when grouped on land, and a “waddle” when walking?

And the answer: Penguins.
Photo credit: Christopher Michel.

There are many collective nouns to refer to a group of penguins, and they all depend on where these majestic creatures are situated and what they’re doing. Most commonly, groups of penguins are referred to as colonies, rookeries, or huddles. However, their most fitting collective noun is a "waddle," which describes them while walking!

Waddlers they may be, penguins are some of the best-suited animals for cold weather conditions (and water) on the planet. With thick, wooly down beneath their feathers and an internal layer of fat insulating them from the harsh winters, most species of penguin thrive in the cold. Interestingly, though, penguins aren’t completely immune to Antarctic freezes: the aquatic birds tend to remain standing when they gravitate together in colonies, as it helps conserve their heat and limits points of contact with the cold ice. And, when it’s really cold, penguins will rock back on their feet, using their stiff tail feathers to support them so that their webbed toes don’t touch the ice.

On land, penguins move slowly in packs or groups—often expending twice as much energy just to move around as any other terrestrial animal of the same size. But their slow waddling is not without a purpose: the rocking motion of their steps is far more efficient for moving short legs, and uses up much less energy. You read that right: it actually saves energy and work for penguins to waddle, rather than step with one foot forward (and thank goodness for that)!

By contrast, penguins are made for speed in the water. With streamlined bodies, flippers that they use to propel themselves, and webbed feet which they use to navigate, penguins deftly steer through Antarctic waters to catch fish and other prey for their penguin families at speeds up to 8 miles per hour. And, since many penguins mate for life, their speed helps keep them out of the jaws of predators to return safely to their families in no time.

Did you know?

Yesterday was Penguin Awareness Day! For the past 14-million (or so) years, penguins have served an integral role in cold weather ecosystems across the planet (and even some warm weather ones, too). Penguins help carry nutrients between land and sea, and are keystone species in the ecosystem food chain of marine environments. Each year, Penguin Awareness Day helps celebrate these lovable waddlers and encourages all penguin lovers to get involved in the fight against habitat threats like encroachment and pollution. Learn more about Penguin Awareness Day and how to get involved here.


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