What Do Penguins Do All Day?

Like other animals, penguins are also driven by survival, food, and reproduction.

Since penguins have little to no land predators, a penguin’s survival hinges primarily on its ability to maintain its body temperature. 

Penguins’ day activities mainly encompass diving into the ocean for foraging or finding potential mates during the breeding season.

But if you are into details, then let’s ask this again.

What Does a Penguin Do All Day?

It depends on a penguin’s species and its circumstances.

You see, there are more than 18 known species of penguins that live in different geographical zones.

Even among members of the same species, different penguins exhibit unique personality traits.

Furthermore, a penguin’s daily activities also vary with its gender, age, and even seasons. 

Predicting the exact day activities of a singular penguin is not possible.

However, if we eliminate discussions on a penguin’s specie specific behaviors as well as geographical location, 

We can describe a penguin’s daily activities in terms of surviving, eating, and forming social connections. 

So, a typical penguin does the following activities during the day:

1. Foraging

The majority of penguins reside at extremes of the Southern Hemisphere i.e. Antarctica and Galapagos Islands.

The climate of these regions varies from moderately warm to freezing cold. 

Ocean represents the main food source for penguins.

Now, penguins have adapted to swim and dive deep within the ocean waters.

The adaptations include:

  1. Ability to hold breath within water for up to 22 minutes.
  2. Thick bones and fused joints to avoid spontaneous snapping under water pressure.
  3. Flipper-like wings and feet allow smooth swimming with speeds exceeding 16 km per hour.
  4. Blubber – a fat coat underneath the skin to provide tensile strength and additional food source during starvation.
  5. Solid torpedo-shaped body and tight muscles to avoid collapsing under extreme water pressure. 
  6. Small oily feathers that trap air but reduce water drag, for easier swimming. 

However, searching for food is not an easy task for any penguin.

Here’s why

  1. Most marine life tends to avoid cold waters and is found deep within oceans.
  2. Penguins need to eat more than their hunger to maintain their body fat. 
  3. Parents also need to hunt for their kids.
  4. Penguins need to swim cautiously as Oceans may have threatening penguin predators.

Now, penguins can swallow fish whole and store them in their crops.

Despite that, foraging takes up most of a penguin’s daily activities.

In fact,

Some penguins spend up to 75% of their lifetime under-waters while searching for food. 

Since penguins have a Supraorbital Organ near their eyes, they can drink and desalinate ocean water.

Penguins often waddle and hike to consume freshwater.

2. Survival

While adult penguins have no natural predators, penguins spend most of their day hunting within Oceans.

This means, penguins often fall victim to marine predators. 

Still, penguin survival consists of fighting cold and maintaining body temperatures. 

a. Dealing With Land Predators

Healthy adult penguins are safe from land predators. 

Baby penguins represent an appealing lunch to raptors like skuas and giant petrels. 

Since parent penguins have forage food for themselves as well as their babies, baby penguins are often left alone.

To cope with over-head predators, penguins take the following measures:

  1. Baby penguins form alliances with other young penguins. The group fights off predators together.
  2. Some adult penguins from the colony stay with penguin babies to keep a watch and forage some other time.
  3. Sometimes one parent forages while the other penguin parent stays with the child. 

b. Avoiding Marine Predators

A penguin’s body is naturally shaded to blend within the ocean. 

So, if you look from above, a swimming penguin will have black color to avoid easy detection.

Similarly, if you look from below, the white underside of a penguin will seem as if the sunlight entering into the ocean.

Despite such genius camouflaging, adult penguins do fall victim to leopard seals and whales. 

To avoid such circumstances, penguins take the following precautions:

  1. Penguins only dive deep as a group.
  2. Penguins come up to the surface as soon as they find some food.
  3. Penguins can control the direction of their body feathers to release air bubbles and reduce water drag. This momentarily increases their swimming speeds. 

This is exactly what penguins do to jump out of the water at 5-9 feet height.

These cautions also take much of a penguin’s daytime swims.

c. Thermoregulation

Penguins have blubber and thick-muscular feet to avoid heat drainage.

Their blood vessels constrict to avoid heat loss through peripheries.  

A penguin’s metabolism slows down to lower body temperature to survive extreme colds. 

However, these measures are often inadequate to survive frostbites.

Which is why penguins have shown unique behaviors to thermoregulate their bodies.


  1. Penguins tend to stand on their toes to reduce surface area directly in contact with ice.
  2. Male penguins hold their babies above their feet to avoid them turning into ice.
  3. Thousands of penguins in a single colony huddle together to keep each other warm. They rotate to allow penguins on the peripheries to come in the center and gather warmth. 

3. Breeding Behaviors

Since raising babies in such freezing cold regions requires extreme caution, mature penguins spend a significant portion of their daily activities in parenting.

a. Mating Rituals

Depending on the species, penguins sexually mature at 3-8 years of age. 

Penguin mating rituals are considered one of the most affectionate rituals.

The males take their time to find a perfect stone to gift their potential partners. 

Perhaps they think females dig pretty stones which is probably true.

Why else would diamond rings be a thing?

Anyways, penguin mating is mostly cuddling and singing together.

Most penguin pairs mate for life and can find their previous mate with a single call.

Even so, if given the opportunity, some penguins try to cheat on their mates.

b. Penguin Parenting

Some penguin parents share incubating responsibilities.

However, most mothers leave for hunting after laying eggs.

Meanwhile, males stay and incubate eggs while holding them on their feet.

This is most prominent in Emperor penguins. 

Penguin egg incubation is a tedious task.

Any carelessness can lead to penguin babies freezing to death.

Penguin dads walk cautiously and huddle together to keep each other warm. In fact,

Penguin parents starve for weeks while incubating their babies, typically losing about 1/3rd of their body mass. 

This is precisely why female penguins prefer plump fatty penguins as their mates.

Even after incubating the eggs, penguin parents need to feed their kids to at least 5 months of age.

After this, most penguins are forced to fend for themselves.

4. Other Activities:

These include:

a. Preening

While penguins lack stereotypical bird feathers, they too need to preen their feathers to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Penguins use their beaks to remove dirt and spread oil from the uropygial gland to all their feathers.

In fact,

Penguins preen their feathers to the point they are completely water-proof. 

This allows penguins to trap warm air as well as reduce water drag. 

b. Naps

Like other birds, penguins don’t take solid naps during the night.


Penguins take short naps throughout the day to keep themselves active.

But maybe a penguin sleep schedule seems somewhat novel to you.

So you may be wondering:

What Does a Penguin Do All Night?

Well, they sleep a few hours while huddling together to keep each other warm.

Since penguins neither hunt nor get much hunted on land, 

“Why do they not take solid sleep during the night?”

You must understand that penguins are not your regular pet animals.

They are not only surviving the harshest colds but technically thriving on it. 

Penguins’ night sleep patterns are to accommodate them in their surroundings the best way possible. 

Here is what they do at night with reason:

Penguins Night Behavior Argument Reason
Penguins Sleep in Upright Position Sleeping is supposed to be relaxing. And so, by logic, a penguin should lie down horizontally.  Penguins live in the harshest colds. To decrease heat loss, they reduce their body exposure to cold surfaces, sleeping upright allows penguins to conserve their body heat.
Some Penguins Sleep Submerged in Waters Water may have penguin predators. So, sleeping in water seems dangerous. Temperatures drop drastically low in Antarctic regions. Therefore, a penguin may experience sudden heat loss.  Meanwhile, sea waters remain at an almost constant temperature.

Therefore, sleeping in water allows penguins to lie down horizontally and also conserve body heat.

Penguins Don’t Take Deep Sleep at Night Penguins are diurnal birds. And so, staying half-active during the night seems rather pointless. Staying half-awake at night allows penguins to not get eaten if they sleep in the ocean. 

Otherwise, it allows penguins to dive early in the morning and forage for fish.

Penguins Huddle Together at Night Huddling half-asleep may crush a penguin. Penguins have mastered the ability to huddle together and move in waves. Besides, their bodies are solid enough to not get crushed easily.

This huddling also helps them maintain body temperatures.


Now, that we have discussed penguin day and night activities, you may be wondering: 

What Do Penguins Do For Fun?

They eat, hike, and take slides.

Not even kidding.

You see, penguins tend to eat a lot.

This over-eating ensures that they always have fat reserves to survive months without food. 

But even the penguins living in warm regions eat a lot more than needed.

Like humans, penguins also sleep better with a full tummy.

Therefore, ornithologists agree that,

Penguins eat for survival as well as for fun. 

Now, penguins walk through waddling.

However, they rely mainly on the ocean for food.

You see, penguins don’t really need to walk much. 

Did you know penguins can cover long distances by sliding on their tummies.

This form of locomotion is also known as Tobogganing

Despite the difficulty in walking, penguins often hike on the same elevations and purposelessly slide down their bellies.

So, birders agree that:

Penguins hike in groups and slide on their bellies to enjoy themselves.

Perhaps, you are more into:

How Are Penguins Fun?

Well, penguins are cute and mushy by all human standards.

Snything they do may look interesting and funny to a human observer. 

Certain penguin behaviors may seem more interesting, including:

  1. The waddling walk
  2. Pushing each other for tobogganing.
  3. Stealing stones from a nearby nest.
  4. Trying to flirt with another penguin in the absence of its mate.
  5. Stealing eggs of another penguin when a baby is lost.

Finally, let’s consider the geographical factor.


Where Do Penguins Spend Their Time?

This varies among penguin species.

Now, penguins reside from frigid cold Antarctica to moderately warm Galapagos Islands.

They are considered coastal species as they don’t waddle much inland.

But the penguins living in extreme cold are rather bulkier with more fat coatings.

These penguins have the ability to dive as much as 1800 feet deep within the ocean.

For instance, emperor penguins survive extreme cold and can weigh as much as 45 kgs.

In contrast, penguins living in moderate regions don’t have blubber or extremely heavy bodies.

They cannot dive much deep within the ocean so they hunt in shallow waters.

For instance, blue penguins are the smallest penguins and have little to no blubber fat present.

They can weigh only as much as 1.5 kgs and can swim only in shallow waters. 

The penguin species traits decide the geographical location of a penguin, and this location decides where a penguin will spend most of its day.

For instance, penguins living on ice will huddle during winters.

But those living on the solid ground will live in stone-made nests.

Wrapping Up 

A penguin’s daily activities vary with its geographical location, species, age as well as gender, and preferences.

Still, the majority of penguins spend most of their time underwater looking for food.

Other times they are either mating, forming other social connections, or trying to endure winter.

Despite all that, penguins still have time for fun activities. 

Here’s some other articles about Penguins which I’m sure you’ll find really interesting so do check them out!

Are penguins friendly to humans?

Can penguins fly?

Do penguins have knees?

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