Do Penguins Pee? (Surprisingly It’s A No And Here’s Why)

I’ve seen loads of posts on the internet about what percentage of Antarctica is made of of penguin pee. I did know quite a bit about birds already, and this made me wonder do penguins pee?

I know this sounds like a really weird question to ask, and to most people the answer would be yes. Anything less than this would be surprising right?

So then do penguins pee? No penguins do not pee. Like all birds, penguins do not have a urethra or bladder, and instead of turning waste into urea it is turned into uric acid. This is secreted out as waste alongside a penguin’s poop as a semi solid white paste. They are able to do this in a very interesting and crazy way!

So the above gives us a very brief answer to the question of do penguins pee. I’ve covered this in way more detail below, along with talking about if and how they poop, if they sweat and what exactly they drink.

I’ve also gone into some detail about the crazy way penguins poop!

If you are interested in finding out the answers to these questions, then please read on below. You may just be surprised by what you read.

Do Penguins Pee?

Do Penguins Pee

When looking at the answer to the question of do penguins pee, we have to remember that they are birds. Yes they may not fly, and in many ways don’t look like birds. But they are, and as such their ability, or inability to pee is the same as all other birds.

The same as with any other question I guess, when I was researching the answer to the question of can penguins pee, I found a lot of misinformation. I guess this happens a lot. Someone says something, and then someone else quotes it on somewhere like Quora, and then all of a sudden it becomes fact.

I did come across some jokes about penguins peeing standing up, but I won’t include them here. I did however find out that penguins can actually sleep standing up!

I also found out that it is illegal to eat penguins because of a special treaty called the Antarctic treaty!

But the honest and real answer to the question do penguins pee is a categorical no. This is for very clear and factual reasons, not based on guess work or conjecture.

There is so much misinformation out there about how much penguin urine makes up the ice in Antarctica, but it’s really just rubbish.

Humans have a urethra and a urinary bladder, which take nitrogenous waste from the kidneys and excrete or get rid of it as urea. This would be very toxic to humans if it stayed inside our bodies. That’s why wee need to pee. The more wee have, the more wee need to pee.

Birds, and therefore penguins,  do not have the same system of getting rid of waste. They are classified as uricotelic. This means that the metabolic process used by penguins to get rid of waste is different from humans and other mammals.

Like all birds, penguins also have knees too. You just can’t see them because they are tucked up inside of their bodies! They also have tails too. Some of these can be quite short.

Penguins do not have either a urethra or urinary bladder. That means they don’t need to pee. Instead of turning the nitrogen waste in their bodies to urea, which would need to come out as urine, their kidneys turn this into uric acid.

This uric acid is less toxic, and therefore unlike in humans, this does not need to be diluted with water. When humans pee a lot, they become dehydrated, because the urea has been diluted with water contained in the body.

Penguins do not need to do this, because as I said the uric acid is less toxic inside the penguin’s body. Due to the fact that they do not have a urethra or bladder, the uric acid created by the metabolic process passes out of the penguin via it’s anus, or bum to give it a nicer word.

This is combined with the faeces in what creates a semi solid waste, that looks a bit like white paste.

This explains the bird poop that you cannot get off the windshield of your car! It is this uric acid in a paste form that sticks to your windshield and becomes difficult to get off once it dries!

So penguins in fact do not pee or urinate. In opposition to a lot of the information I found out there, penguins, like all other birds apart from the ostrich, excrete uric acid along with solid waste created by their bodies as part of the metabolic process.

What Percentage Of Antarctica Is Penguin Urine?

What Percentage Of Ice In Antarctica Is Penguin Pee

Believe it or not this is a question that a lot of people seem to be answering online. Again it seems to be answered with a lot of misinformation, based on no facts at all.

So what percentage of Antarctica is made up of penguin urine or pee? The actual answer to this is that zero percent of Antarctica is made up of penguin pee or urine. This is because penguins do not pee, and pass their waste as uric acid along with the solid waste created, as a semi solid white paste.

So if you, like me, see all of those posts that say 3% of Antartica is made of up penguin pee, this is simply not true. Now it is true that a tiny part of Antarctica must be made up of the waste created by penguins, but the fact that it is penguin pee is not a correct one.

Antarctica is huge. In fact it covers a whopping 14.2 million km². Just look at that number. Now if my maths is correct, 3% of this would be 426000km².

So all of those people saying that 3% of Antartica is made up of penguin urine, or even if it was the case penguin waste, would be saying that 426000km² of the entire area of Antartica is made up of penguin waste.

Now that to me is a load of rubbish! One interesting fact I did come across when researching penguins is that they actually bury their dead in the ice! You can read more about that here.

Do Penguins Poop?

I’ve kind of answered this question above really, as it is very closely related to the question of do penguins pee. Every now and again when I’m writing for this site I come across questions or topics that seem to be written about a lot.

When I was researching sloths I found that so many different writers and sites were interested in the toilet habits of the sloth. If you are interested you can read about this in my posts about sloths.

It appears to be the same about penguins and their poop, for one very good reason, which I will go into below.

So do penguins poop? Yes penguins do poop. All of the waste in their bodies is turned into uric acid. Penguins do not have a bladder, and so all of the waste in their bodies is combined into uric acid, which is then excreted as a semi solid white paste from their anus in what appears to be one long stream.

Now the reason there appears to be so much written online about penguins and how they poop is the nature in which this comes out of their bodies. Penguins shoot this out in a long stream, that can be projected very far from their bodies.

Like most things in nature, this is for good reason. A lot of the research I have seen about penguins and their poop focuses on Adélie penguins.

Apparently these penguins poop so much that this can be seen from space. Researchers actually use this to calculate the sizes of colonies of these types of penguins!

Their penguin poop has a pink color to it, that can be viewed using satellites in space. This is then used to track colony sizes, their changes in diet, and even the history of these colonies!

Back to one of the reasons there is so much interest in penguin poop though. I mentioned that people write a lot about exactly how this comes out of the penguin. Penguins are capable of shooting this waste or poop very long distances.

I’m not going to go into the physics of it here, but there are some studies showing exactly how and how far penguins can and do shoot their poop.

The study in particular on Adélie penguins showed that they can shoot this up to 4 feet. The main reason given for them doing this is that it simply keeps their nests tidy.

Firing their waste far away from here means they keep themselves and their young clean in their nest. Although penguins are not well know for attacking humans, workers in zoos and animal sanctuaries do have to be careful not to be covered by penguins when they do this.

Do Penguins Sweat?

Pink Sweat Glands Magellanic Penguin
Penguins have a pink sweat gland situated above their eyes. Tim, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

When I was thinking about answering the question do penguins pee, this also made me wonder about whether or not penguins sweat.

So do penguins sweat? Yes penguins do sweat. Their sweat glands are in a rather unusual place, situated above their eyes. As penguins don’t produce urine, any excess salt they may have from the food they eat or the water they drink is purified by these sweat glands and is passed through it’s bill or beak as bile.

So penguins don’t pee, but they do have sweat glands that work to sort of filter out the excess salt they have in their systems. While humans sweat partly to maintain homeostasis related to body temperature, the primary function in a penguin is to rid itself of excess salt which would be harmful to the penguin.

So penguins can turn saltwater into freshwater using this sweat gland, known as the supraorbital gland.

Interestingly, penguins also have great eyesight, allowing them to see in dark waters as they deep dive.

What Do Penguins Drink?

Gentoo Penguin Drinking Fresh Water
A Gentoo penguin drinking fresh water. Jerzy Strzelecki, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

In answering the question of do penguins pee, we should take a second to think about what they drink too. Do they drink much, and is it only salt water that they drink?

So what do penguins drink? Penguins mainly get their water from melted ice or from rivers where possible. They can also stay hydrated by eating snow. If fresh water like this is scarce, they can also drink saltwater where they live. Their special sweat glands above their eyes help to purify this water.

So although we know that penguins don’t pee, they can and do get rid of any excess salt in their system another way. By purifying this in their sweat glands and secreting it from their bill.

Summing Up

So there you have it. The answer to the question do penguins pee is a rather surprising no. In fact no birds, apart from ostriches, produce urea. Instead they produce uric acid.

Whilst humans have a urethra and bladder, which works as part of the metabolic system to turn nitrogenous waste into urea, penguins, and other birds do not.

Penguins instead turn this into uric acid, which is then passed out of their anus along with their poop. So instead of two different types of waste being produced, penguins just produce one.

This comes out in the from of a semi solid white paste, although it can have a pinkish color in some penguins.

Penguins can fire this waste up to four feet in distance, which serves the purpose of keeping their nests clean of their own waste.

Penguins can get rid of any excess salt in their system with the use of sophisticated sweat glands situated above their eyes. This works to filter salt out of the water in their bodies, and is secreted from their bill.

I hope you found the information here useful in answering the question do penguins pee.

If you have any questions, or would like to add anything to this, then please feel free to leave a comment below.

 

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