Are Penguins Friendly? Why Are Penguins Not Afraid Of Humans?

Penguins are not only adorable flightless birds, but they are also unique in many ways. They primarily live in Antarctica, a region almost devoid of humans.

It raises a general curiosity- are penguins friendly to humans? If so, why are penguins not afraid of humans

Here, we unravel all that we know about the penguin and human interaction. Stay touted! 

Are Penguins Friendly or Aggressive to Humans? 

Penguins are by and large ‘friendly’ to humans. However, it is more of curiosity than friendliness.

Penguins are fearless of human presence and have no qualms in approaching them.  

But penguins can turn aggressive and ferocious if humans try to touch them or when they come too near their nests and eggs.

Penguins take time to get used to humans around them and will only be open to your touch when trained in captivity.   

Do Penguins Like Humans? Why are Penguins Not Afraid of Humans?

Penguins neither like nor dislike humans. In fact, many exhibits so much curiosity towards humans that it is deemed as super-friendliness. Overall, penguins are not afraid of humans.  

There are several reasons for it. 

  • No Land Predators

Penguins reside and breed in the Sub-Antarctic and Antarctic regions that have very few humans and other land animals.

You find cold-adapted animals like polar bears in the Northern Hemisphere only. Consequently, penguins face no threat from their terrestrial landscape.  

The main predators of penguins are sharks, whales, seals, sea lions, etc. All of these reside in water, and hence, penguins are not fearful of any land animals, including humans. They haven’t evolved any instinctual fear of humans.  

  • Inability to Perceive Threat

While penguins can be as tall as four feet, or small, they have pretty sophisticated brains. Their cognitive abilities are so advanced that they can identify their likeness in a mirror. They can also avoid predatory giant marine animals by hiding. 

Despite it, they lack the intelligence to perceive human size as a show of power or dominance. Due to it, penguins are unable to perceive humans as a threat. 

  • Reliance on Society

Unlike corvids, penguins do not have their families organized in a strict hierarchy. But they live in large communities and colony clusters that can number millions. The colony offers them both support and protection.  

When parents are absent, the young penguins will protect themselves from predators by congregating. In contrast, the adult penguins would conduct coordinated forays into ice and water.  

A primary reason penguins are fearless of humans is that they know they are protected from any threat by a large group of penguins.  

  • Conditioned Responses

We have penguin fossils that are from about 60 million years ago. It suggests that the prehistoric penguins were over 7 feet and weighed around 101 kgs, much bigger and heavier than the present ones. Hence, there was no reason for them to fear humans.  

Penguins have learned that they need not fear humans by the potential experience gained worth centuries from any interaction acquired with humans during their evolutionary history.  

The various reasons work in tandem to make penguins fearless of humans. 

Related Read: What Makes A Penguin A Bird? Is A Penguin A Bird? Really!

How do Penguins Interact with Humans?

Penguins barely show signs of fear towards people, and in their natural habitat, they would not spare humans a second glance. However, penguins less than seven months might come close to humans due to sheer curiosity.  

Penguins are, by nature, spooky and confident. They take time to human presence in their vicinity.

Still, they would not like to be touched and would run away if you try to pet them. They can only be petted under domesticity after they get trained.  

Penguins may naturally approach humans after they have warmed up to them. But they would be scared if humans are loud or quick. They can also turn aggressive if provoked.  

When petted in captivity, they do not act like other domesticated animals. Instead, they take human petting like preening or another penguin touching them as they love to cuddle and snuggle with other penguins.  

Related Read: Can Penguins Live In Warm Weather? How Do Penguins Survive Warm Weather?

Can Penguins Bond Well with Humans? How Well Can They Bond with Humans? 

Penguins occasionally bond with humans, especially in captivity, as they need to be hand-fed the fish.

But even if the penguin bonds with humans and might develop an attachment, it might not necessarily allow you to cuddle them. At max, they would let you pet them. 

Moreover, as penguins are a threatened species due to global warming, it is illegal to adopt penguins as pets.  

Another reason to deter human-penguin bonding is that a human is vulnerable to catching diseases from penguins due to close interaction.  

Hence, usually, you are not allowed to go close to a penguin or cuddle them. Any interaction with penguins, even by their caretakers is conducted under strict regulations.  

What is it Like to Touch and Pet a Penguin? 

Penguins are solid but soft birds. It has perfectly aligned, soft, silky, downy feathers, which are just as beautiful as you imagined them.  

They feel just a tad softer than an ordinary dog but still rather sturdy.  

Do Penguins See Humans as a Threat?

As a norm, penguins do not see humans as a threat.  

But a few of its population can become wary of humans due to increased interaction. Their reaction depends on their species and season. For instance, they would be more aggressive towards you during the breeding season.  

Do Penguins Attack, Hurt, and Bite Humans? Why Do They Do So? 

Penguins can attack, hurt, and bite humans if provoked.  

Penguins are peace-loving birds and try to avoid conflict as far as possible. Despite living in huge colonies, they rarely fight amongst themselves. They also like to hide away from their predators instead of taking them head-on.  

They will be undisturbed if you give them space and are silent in their vicinity. But if you startle them or disturb their way of living, they will likely turn aggressive and attack you. 

Another reason for their attack is the threat to their young ones. A family-oriented species, penguins, are overly protective of their young ones to the extent that they will steal another penguin’s egg if their offspring dies. 

Hence, they will inadvertently attack you if you get too close to their nest, young ones, or even a nesting penguin.  

How Will Penguins Attack Humans? 

Penguins don’t have strong legs. It lacks the strength to walk, let alone kick. Hence, penguins are incapable of attacking you with their legs. They also cannot run after humans. So, they attack only when humans get too close to them.  

Penguins have flipper-like wings that are very strong. They would slap humans with it, and you can be sure to feel a sting that can bruise badly. 

Their long poking bills of about 8cm long are also quite sharp and pointed. As a result, they can easily bite and scratch your legs, causing lacerations which can be pretty severe.  

In the wild, penguins would also attack you with their colony members, and you can get badly beaten up. 

How do Penguins Bite When They Do Not Have Teeth? 

A penguin’s beak is sharp, pointed, and hook-like at its tip. Penguins end to peck your skin with it and bite it with their pointed beak.

They bite with a force of about 400 g wt. that can effortlessly pierce human skin and cause serious wounds.  

Do Penguins Eat Humans? 

Humans do not live in the natural habitat of penguins. Hence, penguins do not feed on humans. Instead, they feed on water animals like fish, Skrill, etc.  

Can Penguins Understand Human Language?

While penguins do not understand human language, their vocal patterns and communication conform to the same principles as human linguistics.  

Related Read: Do Penguins Mate For Life? Are They Monogamous?

Wrapping Up  

By nature, penguins are fearless of all land predators, including humans. They are known to be almost indifferent to humans.

However, under controlled conditions, they can be friendly to humans and can likewise, attack humans, if threatened.  

We hope you enjoyed learning about the penguin and human interaction.