World Penguin Day | The Plight of the Rare Isabelline Penguin

Happy World Penguin Day is a holiday devoted to penguins, and should not be confused with Penguin Awareness Day, which took place back in January. The holiday coincides with the northern migration of penguins as depicted in the Academy Award-winning 2005 documentary film March of the Penguins. The origins of the holiday remain shrouded in mystery, but that’s no reason to celebrate what is perhaps the cutest and fascinating of all birds. Some are celebrating by watching adorable penguin videos, or perhaps visiting the penguin enclosure at their local zoo or aquarium. National Geographic has compiled a series of their best penguin photos. Greenpeace is calling for an effort to save the homes of penguins who may be in danger.

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There are many species of penguins, ranging from the stately Emperor Penguin (the ones seen in March of the Penguins), which can stand at a towering 1.1 meters, down to the New Zealand Little Blue Penguin (it’s real name), which stands at about 13 inches. Penguins are known for being black and white, and just about every species have white bellies and have that well-known black tuxedo pattern on their backs. But, very rarely, a penguin will come along wearing a brown suit. Think of them as the earthier, better-read, tweed-wearing professors of the penguin community. The less bourgeois variety. 

Brown penguins are known as isabelline penguins, which is a mutation in the penguin gene similar to albanism (to distinguish: An albino animal lacks the pigment melanin, an isabelline animal lacks several pigments). Isabelline penguins also need to be trumpeted more. 


Peyre at Wikipedia

Isabelline penguins are insanely rare. Only about one in every 50,000 penguins hatches out that magical shade of studious brown. While their coloration doesn’t adversely effect their health, isabelline penguins tend to get killed off pretty quickly, as they don’t have the natural camouflage needed to hide from predators. They also don’t tend to mate as much as tuxedo-wearing penguins, as their light brown color

I think we all instantly feel an aching sympathy for isabelline penguins, and it’s easy to see why: There appears to be and instant parallel between these awkward little brown birds and our own feelings of being an awkward outcast surviving through high school. Or college. Or life. We can all relate to being the pariah – that one in 50,000 – whose differences make them unique and strong and beautiful, but also make them a prime target for nerd-killing seals. Oh yes, let us not forget repellent to the opposite sex. 

So hug a penguin today. Everyone loves penguins. But think of the isabelline penguins, friends. They deserve love too. 

Top Image: Warner Bros.

Witney Seibold is a contributor to the CraveOnline Film Channel, and the co-host of The B-Movies Podcast. He also contributes to Legion of Leia and to Blumhouse. You can follow him on “The Twitter” at @WitneySeibold, where he is slowly losing his mind.