Penguins are flightless birds that live in the southern regions of the Southern Hemisphere. These birds have multiple predators in the wild, including seals, sharks and birds. Most species of whales are not known to prey on penguins. Killer whales, also called orcas, are an exception. These toothed marine mammals live in both the Arctic and the Antarctic. They are well-known for eating penguins.
Penguin and Orca Habitats
Penguins only live in the Southern Hemisphere. The can be found on the coasts of Antarctica, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, South America and the Galapagos Islands. Orcas live in both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. The orcas that live in the waters surrounding Antarctica mainly eat minke whales, humpback whales and Antarctic toothfish. Orcas are also known to eat the penguins they come into contact with.
Orcas are known to eat several kinds of animals besides penguins and other Antarctic prey. Killer whales have been known to eat manta rays, hammerhead sharks, seals, sea lions, baleen whales, various seabirds, walruses, sea otters and fish from both near the surface and the bottom of the ocean. Remains of polar bears, certain reptiles and moose have been found among the stomach contents of killer whales. Killer whale remains have also been found to be in the stomachs of the same species. This may be attributed to cannibalization or scavenging dead animals. Penguins are only one small part of the wide range that makes up orca diets.
Other whales do not feed on penguins. Baleen whales do not have actual teeth. Baleen is made of stiff plates of keratin that hang from whales' upper jaw. Baleen whales eat by taking in large mouthfuls of water. The water filters out through the baleen, but prey like small fish and invertebrate creatures are trapped in the mouth and eaten. Some toothed whales besides orcas include belugas, dolphins, narwhals and sperm whales. Some of these toothed whales do not share the same habitat as penguins. Others simply do not include penguins in their diets like orcas do.
Killer whales are not the only predators that eat penguins. Other penguin predators include leopard seals, sea lions and shark. All of these animals hunt in the water. Penguins also have predators that live on the land. Small species of penguin that live in regions other than Antarctica may be attacked by lizards, snakes and ferrets. Some types of birds also prey upon sickly adults as well as young penguins. Destructive human marine practices like fishing and trolling also threaten penguins.