School of Life Sciences | Ask A Biologist

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Why is Rudolp's nose red?

Can Penguins Fly?

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 900 times denser than air. What is maybe more amazing is they can fly up to speeds of 20 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 puffns (alcids) that also fly under water.

Question From: Anna
Grade Level: 8

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by volunteering, or simply sending us feedback on the site. Scientists, teachers, writers, illustrators, and translators are all important to the program. If you are interested in helping with the website we have a Volunteer page to get the process started.