Passionate About Penguins

Passionate About Penguins
Owen Davey
Flying Eye Books

Spending their time between land and sea, penguins are amazing creatures: I knew this, but I didn’t know that there are so many different kinds. Owen Davey talks of this on the opening spread of the eighth of his superb series. There are way more penguin species than that though, possibly as many as twenty it’s suggested here, and they are divided into six groups. Examples from each group show off their heads on the first page.

Ask a child where penguins live and they’ll likely tell you Antarctica; however that only accounts for some. Galapagos penguins might be found living north of the equator and there are lots of other kinds of terrain inhabited by penguins – beaches, rocky areas and coastal forests being some. Being carnivorous, they’re always fairly near the sea where they hunt, preying on such marine creatures as jellyfish, eels, crabs and tiny krill. 

On account of their ‘aquatic’ lifestyle, penguins have become specially adapted. Owen uses the example of a Humboldt penguin to zoom in on the special features – webbed feet positioned towards the rear of its body, countershading, making them tricky to spot, streamlined body shape to facilitate effortless swimming, wings – used not for flight but balance, thick blubber for warmth, a special gland to filter excess salt from their blood, dense skeletons for ease of swimming and diving, hooked beaks to catch and hold prey. This they swallow with the aid of fleshy spines on their tongues and inside of their mouths. There’s a spread further entitled Making a Meal of Things giving lots more information on food and feeding.

Other spreads are devoted to plumage, locomotion, self-defence, surviving in extreme conditions, the rearing of chicks – fancy having to eat partially-digested food regurgitated by a parent. Put it another way the adult throws up into the chick’s mouth and surprisingly the little ones love it.
There’s also information about love life, 

social life, size comparison – Emperor penguins can be as tall as 1.2 metres vs ‘Little’ penguins, two antipodean species being only just over 30 centimetres.

As with previous books in the series, there’s an ‘And the Award Goes To’ feature with six award winners, one each for swimming speed, the deepest divers, those that hold their breath longest (that’s two medals for Emperor penguins), the most aggressive, the most private and wait for it – the most fashionable – the feathery crowned Macaroni.

This fascinating book ends with a look at conservation, a vital topic since most penguin species are becoming endangered on account of human action and here you’ll find too what can be done to protect these creatures and their habitats. Finally there’s an index.

Imbued with Owen Davy’s gentle humour, and with a wealth of his signature style illustrations that make each page opening a treat, this fact-packed book is another must have for wild animal lovers, budding zoologists and classroom collections.