Penguins Can’t Fly


LiveScience explains why penguins stopped flying:

To learn more about the energy costs that eventually grounded flighted penguin ancestors, researchers looked to penguinlike seabirds in the Northern Hemisphere that still use their wings to dive and to fly. The team studied thick-billed murres in the Canadaian Arctic, outfitting them with location trackers and measuring their energy expenditure with injections of tracer isotopes, which are variations of an element with different numbers of neutrons.

They found that the double life takes its toll. The murre’s flight cost was much higher than expected, the researchers said. In fact, the energy needed for flight was higher than the flight cost of any bird, surpassing the previous record-holder, the bar-headed goose, which makes a demanding migration over the Himalayas.

Compared with birds that propel themselves with their feet to swim, like pelagic cormorants, the murres used less energy when diving. The murres, however, still had higher energy costs for swimming than penguins do, the researchers said.

I have started reading to Lain. Mostly we’re in the habit of trying to read her to bed. Which is a bit difficult, since she is at the point where she is as interested in eating the book as she is in listening to me read from it. I’ve had to sideline attempts to use the Android tablet to read ebooks to her because “Look, brighty bright! Must touch the brighty bright! Must put the brighty bright in my mouth!” and I get only a few minutes before she is more frustrated that I am keeping the brighty bright away from her than she is soothed or made happy by my speaking.

Anyhow, one of the books that I read is about wings. Wings on birds, planes, and so on. There is a part where it says something to the effect of “wings are there to make things fly” and on that page, it shows a penguin. So every time I read her the book, I feel the need to correct it “Wings are there to make things fly – unless you’re a penguin.” It mentions the wings on a chair later, and I also mark that as an exception to the “wings are there to make things fly” rule.

Eventually we’ll start talking about the aerodynamics of the wings on the angel and how it is unlikely those wings are sufficient to allow the angel to fly. But that can wait until she’s older.

Will Truman

Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter.


  1. and don’t forget wingtip shoes, maxi pads, and red bull.

  2. Just be sure to read her “And Tango Makes Three”. I mean, you do want her to be gay, right?

    How old is she now? I know you’re a few months ahead of Zazzy, Mayonnaise, and I, but I don’t remember just how many. We’ve read a few books to Mayonnaise, who seems completely oblivious to what’s going on. He does seem to like the sound of our voices and has begun to mimic smiles, but his favorite “game” to play is to stare at the various things that hang over his various sitting/laying contraptions with a look on his face as if to say, “Bird! I’m fuckin’ talking to you!”

  3. From the title, I thought you were talking about this.

    Similar to your complaint, children’s books about the story of Noah and the arc often bug me (and not just because it glosses over mass death and isn’t really a children’s story). There’s one we have the shows penguins getting onto the arc… IN THE MIDDLE EAST. C’MON!

  4. You know, it’s perfectly okay to just skip over the whole “aerodynamics of angels” thing while she’s young. But interesting about the penguins, which are of course very cute.

  5. The bigger problem is when they drink and fly. Then they get surly and crash the plane…

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