Can Penguins Drink Saltwater? (Things to Note)

by Chukay Alex
Updated on

Most penguins are mostly found in environments that don’t offer freshwater.

However, those who live in Antarctica, for example, have a choice of ice or saltwater. These birds have the innate ability that allows them to survive in such environments. 

Drinking saltwater can be dangerous to humans. Well, as the name implies, the salt content in saltwater is much higher than what can be processed by the human body. 

But, can the same be said for penguins? Let’s find out.

Can Penguins Drink Saltwater?

Can Penguins Drink Saltwater

Yes, penguins can drink saltwater. Unlike humans, penguins do not react negatively to salt.

They have a supraorbital gland that serves as a filter. It essentially filters the sodium chloride (salt) out.

When blood flows through the gland, salt is trapped before it can travel through the rest of the body.

This excess salt combines with moisture within their gland, travels down their nasal passage, and drips from the penguin’s nose.

It comes out of penguins’ noses as brine.

Nonetheless, penguins prefer to drink freshwater when they can find it.

Rockhopper penguins, which are occasionally see on Falkland Islands trips, prefer to live near freshwater sources rather than drink from the sea.

Continue reading for more interesting information on this topic.

Are There Any Benefits For Drinking Saltwater?

Taking salt has been labeled as unhealthy in general. However, we can’t deny that salt isn’t without its benefits.

There are unquestionably advantages to drinking saltwater. Here are some of its advantages.

1. Sodium is abundant in saltwater

Sodium is one of the four essential electrolytes. Drinking saltwater is an excellent way to replace lost sodium.

Saltwater contains a high percentage of sodium. This is not typically found in regular drinking water.

This is a major reason most persons drink saltwater in the first place.

While electrolytes help the body function in general, sodium is particularly important for muscle and nerve function.

It is essential in ensuring that our muscles contract and relax. It also ensures that our neurons fire, and that our bodily fluid balance is maintained.

2. Digestion is aided by the use of saltwater

Drinking saltwater and digestion can be closely linked. The process of digesting food begins in the mouth.

It all begins with our saliva breaking down the food. This makes it easier for the rest of our digestive system to process.

When we drink saltwater, our salivary glands may be stimulated to produce more saliva. As a result, the entire digestive process benefits.

Natural salts, such as sodium chloride, have also been shown to aid in the production of hydrochloric acid.

This acid aids the body in the breakdown, digestion, and absorption of nutrients such as protein.

Drinking saltwater can help stimulate the stomach’s acid, allowing it to break down the food you’ve eaten.

Related: Here is an article I wrote on do penguins have noses

3. Saltwater aids in the removal of toxins

In general, drinking water aids in the removal of harmful toxins from the body. This theory, however, is taken to new heights by saltwater.

Yes, drinking water will cause you to urinate more, which is how many toxins are removed.

But let’s go back to the previous point about saltwater and digestion.

Drinking salt water can help you have more frequent bowel movements by improving your digestive system. As a result, even more, things will be flushed out of your system.

Many people will drink saltwater for this reason alone. It’s commonly referred to as a saltwater flush. As the name implies, you’re trying to flush out waste from your body.

Having mentioned the advantages of drinking saltwater, it is important however to know that it has disadvantages as well. Let’s find out some of them.

1. Diarrhea can be caused by drinking salt water

A healthy amount of sodium in your body is fine. But too much can be harmful. It causes intestinal problems that lead to diarrhea.

This often leads to dehydration due to a sudden and significant loss of fluids.

2. Saltwater is deficient in other electrolytes

Some electrolytes are absent from saltwater. Drinking saltwater only replenishes sodium chloride and does not replenish any of the other essential electrolytes.

Hydrant can also help with this problem. Every Hydrant pack contains minerals and nutrients that the body requires.

It will not only restore our sodium balance but also our other essential electrolytes.

Proper hydration entails more than just drinking enough water. Proper hydration also includes the proper amount of electrolytes.

3. Drinking saltwater may result in kidney damage:

A glass of saltwater already has too much salt in it. And eating too much salt almost always results in health problems, kidney damage being one of them.

Of course, our body requires a certain amount of salt to function properly. However, too much salt can be harmful.

Therefore, for health’s sake, everything should be done in moderation.

A good number of our foods already contain adequate levels of salt. We would likely meet our daily nutritional sodium requirement solely through diet.

Can Penguins Turn Saltwater Into Freshwater?

Penguins cannot convert saltwater to freshwater. Instead, they filter the water to remove the salt.

They do this with the help of the supraorbital gland, which is located near the penguin’s eye.

This gland filters the salt from the water, which is then expelled through the nose of a penguin in the form of brine.

When blood flows through the gland, it usually flows throughout the body.

This excess salt combines with moisture within the gland, travels down the penguin’s nasal passage, and drips out of the penguin’s nose.

Can Penguins Live In Freshwater?

Penguins can live in freshwater. They are also capable of surviving in saltwater. Penguins’ natural habitats include oceans and coastlines. 

They usually live on islands or in remote continental regions with few land predators, where their inability to fly does not pose a threat to their survival.

They are adapted to living at sea, and some species can stay at sea for months. 

Penguins are also found in areas rich in nutrients and, of course, water. This area provides an abundant supply of food for them. 

However, different species thrive in different climatic condition. The Galápagos penguins for example live on tropical islands near the equator.

The emperor penguins on the other hand are restricted to Antarctica’s pack of ice and water.

Do Penguins Drink Water?

Just like every other bird, penguins drink water. They drink both seawater and freshwater, depending on which is available.

They also drink meltwater from pools and streams.

These birds have also been found to eat snow. According to research, they eat snow to stay hydrated. 

You may be wondering how these birds drink water right? Well, let’s clear your curiosity.

Birds are generally known to swallow water. And, just like every other bird penguins swallow water.

That’s the only way they can drink water. 

Interestingly, these birds often swallow their prey whole, taking saltwater down with it.

Can Penguins Live Without Ice?

Certain species of penguins can live without ice. Some others, however, solely depend on ice. 

Emperor penguins for instance rely on sea ice for breeding, molting, and feeding. When breeding, these penguins require a certain amount of ice. 

However, fourteen species of penguins live in temperate, or warm, climates.

These penguins, like cold-weather penguins, have a layer of fat on their backs, but it isn’t as thick. This allows them to live on the land where it is usually warmer. 

Penguins require habitats where nature provides them with shelter, enough food, and space where they can interact and reproduce.

This is regardless of whether the habitat is warm or cold. 

Do Penguins Get All Their Food From Water?

Yes, penguins get all their food from the water. They feed mainly on krill, fish, and squid.

Penguins also eat crab, shrimp, sand hoppers, and amphipods. 

They may scrape the smaller food, like krill, off of the underside of the ice. They can also catch it out of the water.

Penguins have a strange way of storing food for their young ones.

However, here’s one that will definitely blow your mind – penguins store food in their stomach.

They swallow the food whole and leave it for several days. This process is called refrigeration. 

You may be wondering if this food doesn’t digest. Well, they have enzymes in their stomach that prevent this food from digesting.

These enzymes help them store their food for several days without the food going bad. 

Why Do Penguins Not Get Wet?

Amazingly these aquatic birds do not get wet. This is because penguins have a lot of feathers.

These feathers are densely packed together and they cover their entire body. 

Their feathers have an oil-producing gland. This oil-producing gland makes its feathers waxy.

The wax on the feathers repels the cold water and helps keep them dry. However, there have been records of baby penguins getting wet by heavy rainfall.


Penguins are water birds. Their food comprises of aquatic animals like fish, krill, crabs, and other sea animals.

These birds are known to drink saltwater.

However, their supraorbital gland helps them filter the salt from the water. 

This stops the saltwater from getting into other parts of their bodies.

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About the author

Chukay Alex

Chukay is a season writer and farmer who enjoys farming and growing plants in his backyard farm. When he is not farming you can find him at the nearest lawn tennis court, hitting a mean backhand down the line.


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