what do penguins need to survive

What do penguins need to survive? Maybe, a top hat, a tuxedo, and a cane? Of course not!

Penguins have evolved some pretty neat adaptations, from their feathers’ ability to insulate them to their complex circulatory system, to help them survive and prosper.

But, what are the necessities for these well-dressed birds to continue their waddling?

Penguins have the same basic needs as other birds and require water, food, suitable habitats, and a favorable climate. 

What Do Penguins Need to Survive?

The penguin is a special kind of bird that has developed to withstand the rigors of life in Antarctica and other icy regions.

So, what conditions do penguins need to survive?

Well, easy access to food and water, a suitable habitat, safety from predators, and a favorable climate are just a few of the things they need to survive.

Here is a bit more about it:


food of penguin

Because of its carnivorous nature, a penguin’s diet consists mainly of fish and krill.

To survive, they need to be able to swim to areas of open water where fish can be found.

Penguins often make extensive journeys from locations where food is scarce to locate enough to eat.

Many types of penguins rely mostly on fish as their food supply, such as, the Emperor, King, and Rockhopper.

These birds get the minerals and energy they need from a diet of fish, specifically:

  • Lanternfish
  • Herring
  • Anchovies

Little shrimp-like crustaceans called krill are another important part of a penguin’s diet.

Of the penguin species found in the Antarctic, the Adelie, Gentoo, and Chinstrap rely heavily on the plentiful krill for their diet.

Fact: In the equatorial and temperate zones, squid is a crucial part of the diet of penguins like the Humboldt and Galapagos species. 



Penguins need both fresh and saltwater. Because they prefer saltwater habitats, they need regular access to fresh water for drinking and bathing.

Penguins, when it comes to staying hydrated, have it rough in the Antarctic, where fresh water is scarce.

They have adapted physiologically to make it possible for them to drink salt water.

The salt glands of a penguin are found close to the eyes, and their function is to remove excess salt from the bloodstream.

Because of their built-in salt-filtering system, they can safely drink seawater for hydration. 


A penguin colony needs a certain kind of habitat to thrive and multiply.

These interesting birds form large colonies, where they engage in complex social behavior including mating and raising young on the ground.


Aerial predators such as skuas, gulls, and giant petrels prey on penguin eggs and chicks, so penguin colonies on land must constantly be on guard.

Because of their social nature, penguins are better able to protect their young from predators.

The adults will form tight groups around the defenseless chicks and use a variety of alarm calls and displays to scare away predators.

Fact: Species like the Emperor penguin, are known to nest in ice caves or seek cover behind rocky overhangs to provide a safe haven for their young. 


Penguins need safety from predators in order to survive. Camouflage and social activity help them avoid detection by land and sea predators.  

Maintaining healthy penguin populations requires safeguarding their natural habitats as well.

However, predators pose a threat in both terrestrial and aquatic habitats, necessitating camouflage and social activities for survival. 

Effects of Global Warming on Penguins

effects of global warming on penguins

Penguins in Antarctica are in danger because of global warming.

The loss of sea ice and therefore breeding habitats due to rising global temperatures forces penguins to forage further afield in search of appropriate nesting locations.

The distribution and availability of fish and krill, two of their main food sources, are also being disrupted by climate change, which poses an additional threat to these animals. 

Environmental Pollution

Another problem that humans have created for penguins is pollution in the form of trash and oil leaks.

Ingestion of plastic waste can lead to internal damage and malnutrition, while oil spills taint the birds’ feathers, affecting their ability to insulate themselves and retain buoyancy



Penguins prefer cold climates and can only be found in the southern hemisphere, with a small population occasionally seen at the equator.

What temperature do penguins need to survive?

These birds maintain their internal temperature around 38C but can withstand temperatures ranging from a bitter -60°C to 32°C thanks to their specialized adaptations.

These skilled swimmers and divers search out underwater refuges like cracks or liquid oasis to navigate and forage for food.

What Adaptations Do Penguins Need to Survive?

what adaptations do penguins need to survive

Among the most well-known examples of evolutionary success in extreme conditions can be found in the penguin.

These changes are crucial to their existence since they must contend with harsh environments, scarce food supplies, and predators.

Here is a bit about a few of the strategies penguins have perfected over time to ensure their own survival:

Thick Feathers

Because of the extreme cold climate they live in, penguins’ thick feathers are essential to their survival.

This thick coat of feathers acts as a thermal barrier, protecting the bird from the cold and allowing it to keep its body temperature constant.

The preen gland of the bird produces oil that coats the feathers, giving them a watertight quality.

While swimming in cold water, this oil coating keeps the feathers from becoming wet and the skin from being cold.

Hence, penguins are able to successfully adapt to the harsh polar environment thanks to the insulating qualities and water-resistance of their thick feathers. 

Countercurrent Exchange

countercurrent exchange

Penguins are able to keep warm because of their sophisticated circulatory system, which uses a process called countercurrent exchange.

Veins that return cold blood to the heart surround the arteries that deliver warm blood to the extremities. 

The penguin’s body temperature is maintained through this process of heat transfer from the warm blood to the cold blood. 

Huddling Behavior

Keeping warm requires penguins to congregate in huge groupings. They stay warmer by doing this because it decreases the of skin exposed to the chilly air.

Fact: To further ensure that everyone keeps toasty, penguins will take turns moving to the center of the huddle. 

Efficient Swimming

Penguins have honed their swimming abilities to the point of excellence to survive in their difficult watery habitats over millions of years.

These alterations facilitate their successful food-seeking and predator-avoiding behaviors.

efficient swimming

Penguins have an incredible ability to dive up to 500 feet deep and hold their breath for up to 20 minutes.

Their ability to evolve their wings into functional flippers is one of the species’ most remarkable adaptations.

Penguins are able to swim efficiently thanks to their changed wings, which are now broad and flat like paddles.

The development of specific muscles has also contributed to improving penguins’ swimming abilities.

Their strong pectoral muscles and unique wing joint arrangement provide them with the ability and flexibility to make powerful underwater strokes.

Fact: The streamlined design of a penguin's body helps swim faster and further by creating less resistance in the water. 

Salt Glands and Metabolism

salt glands and metabolism

Above their eyes, penguins have salt glands that help them rid their bodies of excess sodium.

They have evolved this way to use the saltwater fish and krill that make up the bulk of their diet.

Penguins are able to make do with meager food supplies thanks to their low metabolic rate.

They may store energy and make it through lengthy fasts by slowing their metabolism and decreasing their energy consumption when food is limited.  

Adapted Vision

Because of their aquatic existence, penguins have developed a visual system that is both specialized and versatile.

Their eyes are fine-tuned to spot prey, predators, and fellow colonists. The ability to see effectively while submerged is a significant adaption of penguin vision.

adapted vision

A large number of rod cells in penguins’ retinas allow them to sense motion and see in the dim light prevalent in the ocean’s depths.

They are able to successfully forage for food and escape predators in low-light conditions because of their heightened sensitivity to light. 

An Important Thing to Know

To further compensate for the disparity in light refraction between air and water, penguins’ eyes are equipped with a specific lens and cornea.

The lens reshapes itself when they enter the water, allowing for sharp, focused vision regardless of depth.

Fact: Their eyes' placement on the sides of their heads gives penguins an unusually wide field of vision and enables them to detect potential threats. 


What do penguins need to survive?

For penguins to thrive, it is essential that they have constant access to food and water, a protected environment free of dangerous animals, and mild winters and summers.

Fish and krill make up the bulk of their diet, and they require both fresh and salt water.

While they have adapted over time, their populations face serious danger from global warming and environmental contamination.