Can penguins fly?

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Are penguins able to fly in the air like other birds? The answer is no. But if you want to know if penguins can fly, the answer is yes they are a flying bird. They just fly in water that is 800 times denser than air. What is maybe more amazing is they can fly up to speeds of 25 miles per hour.

When you watch penguins under water you can see the way they move their wings and the forces that are generated by their forelimbs are very similar, if not identical, to the forces of birds that fly in the air. They are flying with their forelimbs (wings).

There are birds that do move under the water that don't use their forelimbs and they paddle. And so that's not really flying in the sense of forelimb developing lift. In the case of penguins they are absolutely flying only in water and not air. There are other birds like puffins (alcids) that also fly under water.

We have added a new video to this answer that covers more about these birds and how birds fly. It is one of our Biology in Minutes videos on our YouTube channel.


Image via Wikimedia Commons by Ken Funakoshi.

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Bibliographic details:

  • Article: Can penguins fly?
  • Author(s): Dr. Biology
  • Publisher: Arizona State University School of Life Sciences Ask A Biologist
  • Site name: ASU - Ask A Biologist
  • Date published: May 16, 2017
  • Date accessed: March 4, 2024
  • Link:

APA Style

Dr. Biology. (2017, May 16). Can penguins fly?. ASU - Ask A Biologist. Retrieved March 4, 2024 from

American Psychological Association. For more info, see

Chicago Manual of Style

Dr. Biology. "Can penguins fly?". ASU - Ask A Biologist. 16 May, 2017.

MLA 2017 Style

Dr. Biology. "Can penguins fly?". ASU - Ask A Biologist. 16 May 2017. ASU - Ask A Biologist, Web. 4 Mar 2024.

Modern Language Association, 7th Ed. For more info, see

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