Do Penguins Stink? [Facts Explained]

Yes, they do. The sweat and other bodily secretions, when they come to meet the bacteria, create a pungent odor. You can detect the penguin’s stink from nearly kilometers away.

To look for the reasons why they smell bad, it is the preen gland that produces oily secretions. Moreover, as the sweat gets stinky, the fish and krill feed make the sweat go fishy. Strange, may it seem, the same gland gives them a smart swim by oiling the feathers.

See! Every page has a second side. It would be a good idea to learn about the resting areas, eating habits and living trends of the penguins. It would help you know more about the stinky smell the penguins emit. Let us know well and learn new things.  

Do Penguins Smell Bad?


Well, unfortunately, besides being extremely cuddly, they release the smell, and the smell is bad. The smell is very pungent and very close calls can irritate you.

To the penguin community, the smell is nothing unpleasant. Rather, it is a sign of recognition. Let us come to it later.

First, know do all penguins smell? Almost all the 17 types of penguins smell, and this is because of their living attitudes.

However, the colder, the better. It is when the temperature rises, they sweat and are more smelly.

Different Species of Penguins and Their Strong Odor

  • Adelie Penguins give a strong odor due to high temperatures and excessive fish food.
  • Emperor penguins, however, are known to release a milder smell as compared to the Adelie Penguins.
  • Penguins of breeding colonies poop a lot, and the poop fills the air with a strong smell.
  • Similarly, the penguins living in the wild are less in number to produce too much smell from their poop.
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Why Do Penguins Smell So Bad? Key 6 Reasons

The reasons for the smell caused by the penguins are not too many, but they are pretty defined:

Penguins Smell So Bad: 6 Reasons

  • The bodily secretions interact with bacteria to produce a bad smell from the body.
  • The preen gland producing oily secretions for the feathers also gives rise to the smell as the secretions don’t smell good with bacteria.
  • Guano-the penguin poop is one of the big things attached to their profile for smelling.
  • Larger colonies have heaps of poop near nesting areas. These heaps produce unpleasantness around the area.
  • Rise in temperature increases sweating. It also allows the guano smell to spread far and wide.
  • The heavy fish diet to the body of penguins produces smelly sweat.

What Do Penguins Smell Like?


Penguins have no strong body odor of their own. The only strong smell comes from the oily secretion of the tail. However, the breeding colonies of penguins introduce you to a weird smell.

The smell is a mixture of materials and reactions which are not pleasantly acceptable.

From the Atlantic Peninsula, NPR science producer Jason Orfanon said that the smell coming from the penguin colonies is similar to when you soak tobacco in ammonia. Then, mix it with rotten shrimp and burn it in the sun for days.

The description is complicated yet very much reflective of what the smell could be like. Remember, we are talking about the smell of poop heaps.

Can Penguins Smell Underwater?

Studying the anatomy of penguins would tell you that they don’t breathe underwater. They hold their breath and dive into the deep to catch the prey and come back up.

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So, no question of penguins smelling the prey underwater. However, the olfactory bulbs of penguins are far bigger than other birds. And they are expected to smell better as per the advanced theory. 

Still, in water, they close their nostrils underwater not to let the water go in the nostrils. It might be a possibility that the water molecules going in the body give them some clues about the prey.

What Smells Are Penguins Attracted To?


Let us talk about the fact of recognition through smell through vivid evidence.

  • The penguins find their mates and their family for breeding. Recognizing their mates from a distance is evident that they can sense the relationship through smell.
  • Fish and krill, which is a common food of penguins, are also detected by the Adelie penguins.
  • The supraorbital gland in penguins helps them move away from predators to save their lives. This last smell is something that attracts them to help them stay away. How ironic!


Can penguins smell toothpaste?

No. The penguins, on average, have a weaker sense of smell as compared to other animals. The smells they receive more are of their predators and prey, not toothpaste.

Do penguins smell like fish?

Yes, they do. The reason is the diet they take. Particularly speaking, it is the Adelie Penguin that has a heavy number of fish and krill in its diet, which results in a fishy smell.

How far can penguins smell?

The sense of smell varies from species to species. So far, the penguins are concerned; they are believed to smell their mates or their family.  Moreover, they can smell their prey on land. So you can say that they can smell from a distance. The exact distance is still not found.

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What do penguin rocks smell like?

If we think of the penguin rocks where they live and pass the breeding season, obviously, the rocks would smell like ammonia. The guano smell would be a part of the rocks as they poop a lot near the nesting area on rocks.


Penguins are marine birds living both on land and diving in the water to find prey. They have a special mechanism to dive in water without breathing underwater while still maintaining speed.

The lungs fill in the air to help them go deep and come back up to porpoise. Yet, the nostrils on the upper side of the beak, which are for smelling the food on land, stay closed in water. 

The duty performed by each organ is at its proper time. These features make the penguins more surprising in a study like puffins and many other marine animals.

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