Animal Penguin in Green Pure Water Penguins (order Sphenisciformes, family Spheniscidae) are a group of aquatic flightless birds. They live almost exclusively in the Southern Hemisphere, with only one species, the Galapagos penguin, found north of the equator. Highly adapted for life in the water, penguins have countershaded dark and white plumage, and their wings have evolved into flippers. The word penguin first appears in the 16th century as a synonym for great auk. When European explorers discovered what are today known as penguins in the Southern Hemisphere, they noticed their similar appearance to the great auk of the Northern Hemisphere, and named them after this bird.