Penguins are flightless marine birds that live only in the Southern Hemisphere. The stocky, short-legged appearance of penguins has endeared them to people worldwide. They range from about 14-45 inches in height and 2-90 pounds in weight. Most are black on the back and white below, often with lines of black across the upper breast or spots of white on the head. Colour is rare, being limited to red or yellow irises of the eye in some species. The total populations of some species are estimated in the hundreds of thousands, but most species of smaller penguins certainly run into the millions. Nineteenth-century whalers and seal hunters visited some colonies for meat and eggs, and a penguin oil industry once took large numbers of the birds. Some species are now increasing in numbers, apparently as a result of the decimation of Antarctic whales, which compete with penguins for the krill on which both feed. Penguin populations, however, are highly vulnerable to changes in climate and ocean temperature, including recent global warming.
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