Do Penguins Have Knees

Do penguins have knees?  This seems to be the great debated question.  Purely by watching their charming stiff waddle one might assume the answer is clearly no, however, sometimes appearances can be quite deceiving.

Penguins are flightless birds that reside primarily in the southern hemisphere and they are highly adapted for water life.  In fact, no other bird comes close in swimming ability to the penguin.


So, is the question, “Do penguins have knees?” so popular because they are more associated with aquatic life over being land dwelling?  They do have wings; however, they cannot fly because they are specially designed to swim.  While on land, the penguin needs to sturdy itself by using its tail.  Is this why they are thought to have no knees because they walk so oddly?

Penguins are colored for camouflage with their white fronts and black backs.  A predator swimming below and looking up has quite a difficult time distinguishing a penguin's belly from the reflective light of the surface.  Their dark black plumage, on the other hand, blends them in with the water for predators looking below.  Perhaps people wonder, “Do penguins have knees?” because they can't be seen with all of that white plumage.

Penguins will often waddle or slide on their bellies, which is called “tobogganing” to conserve energy, yet move quickly.  They will also jump with their feet together to cross rocky or steep terrain.  Maybe people assume that penguins have no knees because of their peculiar land travel techniques.

An extremely thick layer of warm, insulating feathers keeps penguins warm in the cold water.  They can also control the flow of blood to their extremities which reduces how much blood gets cold yet it allows enough blood through to keep from freezing.  They are often seen huddling together so that they can keep warm.  Penguins in the huddle will rotate positions to assure each one has a turn at being in the middle of the heat pack.

So, do penguins have knees?  Although you cannot see them and they walk quite strange, of course they have knees.  If penguins were without knees they would not be able to lower themselves down to cover their eggs or crouch down to get into the water.  Their knees are hidden underneath their nice warm feathers to protect them from the hostile temperatures of Antarctica.  The waddle walk of the penguin is not because of lack of knees but rather due to their super short legs that are not proportionate to their bodies to allow for a suave walk.


Now that the question, “Do penguins have knees?” has been answered, they also have some interesting breeding tactics that should be pointed out as well.  For the most part, they breed in large quantities.  They are highly social birds yet they form monogamous pairs during the breeding season.

Most penguins lay only two eggs in their clutch except the King and Emperor penguins only lay one.  Penguins share incubation duties and shifts can last days or weeks while the other member of the couple feeds at sea.  They usually only lay one brood with the exception of the Little penguin who can lay two to three broods per season.  Their eggs are quite small when proportionally compared to the bird's weight.

Interestingly, if a mother penguin loses a chick, she will sometimes try to steal a chick from another mother penguin, of course, usually unsuccessful.  Penguins are protective of their young and withstand severe temperatures to incubate and raise them, and their little knees.