How Do Penguins Communicate?

penguins-communicate Credit: Rosemary Calvert/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images

Penguins primarily communicate vocally, but they also communicate through body language and posturing. Penguins all look virtually identical, which makes individual recognition very difficult. To overcome this, penguins have evolved different sounding voices and the ability to recognize the individual voices of their mates or chicks. This allows the birds to recognize and find their important conspecifics amid the masses, which all look the same.

Male and female penguins produce different types of calls. These calls are used in courtship and mating rituals and further illustrate the importance of vocalization for their communication. Penguins emit three different types of calls, each for a different purpose. Penguins emit threat calls to dissuade predators or competitors, contact calls for recognizing familiar birds and display calls to attract mates. When emitting display calls, male penguins engage in highly choreographed dance-like, visual displays.

Penguins are fish-eating carnivores. They live in portions of the Southern Hemisphere. While penguins do not fly and are somewhat awkward when moving on land, they are incredible swimmers. Emperor penguins live in Antarctica, and the males spend the long, dark winters huddled together for warmth. Males and females engage in parental care, and they take turns tending to their chicks.