Can penguins fly?

Grade Level: 
8

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 puffins (alcids) that also fly under water.


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: September 19, 2020
  • Link: https://askabiologist.asu.edu/questions/are-penguins-flying-birds

APA Style

Dr. Biology. (2017, May 16). Can penguins fly?. ASU - Ask A Biologist. Retrieved September 19, 2020 from https://askabiologist.asu.edu/questions/are-penguins-flying-birds

American Psychological Association. For more info, see http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/560/10/

Chicago Manual of Style

Dr. Biology. "Can penguins fly?". ASU - Ask A Biologist. 16 May, 2017. https://askabiologist.asu.edu/questions/are-penguins-flying-birds

MLA 2017 Style

Dr. Biology. "Can penguins fly?". ASU - Ask A Biologist. 16 May 2017. ASU - Ask A Biologist, Web. 19 Sep 2020. https://askabiologist.asu.edu/questions/are-penguins-flying-birds

Modern Language Association, 7th Ed. For more info, see http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/747/08/

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