Why Do Penguins Have Webbed Feet? (Explained for Beginner)

by Chukay Alex
Updated on

Penguins are fascinating creatures and their feet are of particular interest to many people because of how it is. 

The webbed feet of Penguins are an adaptation that helps them in living their aquatic lifestyle.

Penguins are flightless aquatic birds, they spend most of their time in water or around water, therefore they have adaptive features that helped them thrive around water.

our primary concern in this article is the adapted webbed feet of Penguins, stick with us as we explore many things related to the webbed feet of Penguins.

Why Do Penguins Have Webbed Feet?

Why Do Penguins Have Webbed Feet

Like most aquatic animals, Penguins have webbed feet because of their aquatic lifestyle.

When Penguins swim, their webbed feet help them move faster in water.

Their feet are positioned at the end of their streamlined bodies and when swimming they place them close to their tails and use the feet to steer their bodies and swim faster.

On land, the feet of Penguins are not so efficient for walking and this is why penguins waddle.

It is safe to say that the reason penguins have webbed feet is that they are aquatic birds and their webbed feet help them move gracefully and efficiently in water.

They are generally at least 8 times faster moving in what than they are moving on land.

Related: Here is an article I wrote on why do penguins build nests

Do Penguins’ Webbed Feet Help Them Swim?

The primary reason for the adapted webbed feet of Penguins is for swimming. The feet of penguins do help them swim.

When you see a Penguin swimming,  its feet are usually tucked in a position very close to the tail of the Penguin,

The primary purpose of this is to navigate and swim faster.

To be as proficient in swimming as they are Penguins need to have everything working for them in water.

This means that their physical features have to be adapted to spending more time in the water.

It is known that some species of Penguins spend around 75% of their life inside water, it is therefore expected as it is in nature that their bodies would adapt to this kind of lifestyle.

If Penguins did not have webbed feet they would not be as proficient at swimming as they are present.

What Do Penguins Use Their Feet For?

What Penguins use their feet for depends greatly on where they are at the present and what they are doing. 

In water Penguins use their feet to swim and steer themselves when they’re swimming, Their feet are webbed and this helps them to be great swimmers.

The benefit of a Penguin’s feet in water does not translate to being beneficial on land.

On land Penguins use their feet to move when they waddle to hold onto the surface is of ice when they stand or climb cliffs.

Whether Penguins are on land or in water at a particular time their feet do serve the purpose of helping them move.

Although because of the web nature of the feet and other things It is better used in water.

Also check out this article I wrote on why penguins slide on their bellies

Do Webbed Feet Help Penguins Survive?

The webbed feet of Penguins helps them survive.

Without their feet, they would not be able to move at all on land and in water, they will be unable to swim well.

All this would add up to Penguins dying out easily.

It is quite amusing that something that might seem as minuscule as feet of Penguins being webbed can contribute so much to their survival.

But you can easily understand this because you know that nature always finds a way to survive and thrive.

This is evident in the other features that Penguins have that helped them survive and thrive. These features include:

  • Streamlined Body: The moment you see a Penguin you know from the way its body is that it has adapted to an environment. The unique shape of a Penguin’s body helps it move faster in water because of how streamlined the body is. This streamlined nature of the Penguin’s body helps them to be excellent swimmers because there is no drug in water when they swim.  because of how their body is they have an almost seamless kind of movement in water. Although this does not translate to good movement on land because it makes their body less effective for walking on land.
  • Coloration:  The color of a Penguin’s body serves as a kind of camouflage for the Penguin, their coloration is called countershading. It hides them from predators even when they are swimming.
  • Flippers: you must have noticed that Penguins do not have the typical kind of wings, This is because they have flippers that help them move better in water.  Since they are flightless birds their “wings” have evolved into flippers that are great for swimming. The flippers propel them when they swim.
  • Plumage: The plumage of Penguins is also one of the adaptive features. Their feathers are very oily and air-tight,  what this translates to is that Penguins are insulated from the cold, and water doesn’t soak their feathers when they swim. This all adds up to make them better at surviving in cold areas and water.

We know that adaptation is a very important characteristic of any living thing,

Penguins have so adapted to live on thriving as aquatic birds that Virtually everything about them helps the aquatic nature of living.

From what they eat to the color of their feathers, the shape of their body to the type of feet they have, even how they congregate.

What is special about the feet of a penguin?

There are many things that are special about the feet of a Penguin.

As already stated every part of a Penguin has evolved to help it be better at surviving and thriving as aquatic birds.

 The special things about the feet of a Penguin are:

  • Webbed: Because the feet of Penguins are webbed they are better swimmers. Their feet help them seamlessly navigate in water. Webbed feet are not so common in animals. This is quite special about the feet of Penguins.
  • Prevention of Frostbite: most spwcies6of penguins love in very cold Environment’s, typically the feet of any animal that is not special would easily get frozen or get frostbitten. Even the mighty eagle cannot spend so much time on ice without having its feet frostbitten.

The feet of Penguins do not get frostbitten for two reasons, these are behavioral and physical.

Behaviorally Penguins hunch down or hunch over to use their feathers and belly to cover their legs, they also sometimes move their fitting ways that all of it is not on the ice every time.

Physically, by evolution Penguins have special mechanisms that help them maintain the healthy nature of their feet.

Penguins have the ability to dictate the rate at which blood flows into their feet so when it is cold they don’t allow so much blood to flow into their feet,  

This way the feet retain more heat. They strive to keep be fit at least 2 degrees above the freezing conditions of their environment.

In which ways are the webbed feet of a frog different from the webbed feet of a penguin?

Well, the main difference between the web feet of a frog and the webbed feet of a Penguin is the fact that Penguins use their webbed feet in water to navigate while frogs need their webbed feet to swim In the water.

This is why frogs that are not aquatic tend not to have webbed feet.

While the webbed feet of Penguins are adapted to the cold the feet of frogs are not adapted to the cold.

Essentially webbed feet in any animal are associated with some kind of affinity with water, therefore whatever feature the webbed feet of said animal has usually helped that animal to function better in water.

Is a penguin’s webbed feet an adaptation

Yes, a Penguin’s webbed feet are an adaptation to help it survive better in aquatic regions since it is an aquatic bird.

The webbed feet of Penguins help them swim better, hunt better in water, and survive.


Even though Penguins do not fly, virtually every part of their body has adapted to make them undeniably good at living as aquatic birds.

They can easily be regarded as one of the most efficient aquatic birds.

A great deal of their success as aquatic birds is owed to their unique webbed feet.

Photo of author

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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