What Are the Learned Behaviors of a Penguin?

Much of penguins' behavior is developed through observation and social interaction or experiences within their colonies. Some of penguins' learned behaviors include swimming, sliding, diving, courting, vocally communicating, catching food, huddling and migrating.

Penguins develop many behaviors that are learned, not instinctual; these behaviors emerge through practice and observation. Penguins learn to be very vocal and social animals within their colonies. They learn to make contact calls from a very young age. Contact calls serve as a sort of standard greeting between penguins. Display calls are unique calls directed toward one individual in the colony and are used between mates, parents and offspring. Display calls can also be used to claim ownership of a territory.

Penguins are slow walkers and cannot fly. One method they learn to use to travel more quickly out of water is sliding across ice on their stomachs. Penguins have been spotted surfing through waves to get back to shore. This is likely another behavior they learn to travel through water quickly and easily.

Some visual displays penguins learn to perform are bowing, head swinging and quivering. During mating season, males stretch out their flippers and necks and wave their heads from side to side. When a male and female pair up for mating, they do a display dance together. Penguins sometimes bow at each other to ease tension, and they also learn to huddle together in groups to keep warm.