How many species of penguins are there?
There are just 17 species of penguin worldwide. Penguins are birds that are able to swim very well underwater, with the help of their paddle muscles that propel them in the water at 25 mph. They walk with an erect posture as their legs are located far below their bodies.
Of this 17, there are 4 that live and nest on and around the Antarctic continent and a further 3 that live and nest on Antarctic and sub-Antarctic islands, giving us 7 species that can be considered “Antarctic Penguins”
All of the species live in the Southern hemisphere. Many live at the South Pole on Antarctica. But some don’t live in such cold places. They are found on the coasts of South America, Africa, Australia, New Zealand and the Galapagos Islands.
List of Penguin Species
- Adelie penguins (Pygoscelis adeliae)
- African penguins (Spheniscus demersus)
- Chinstrap penguins (Pygoscelis antarctica)
- Emperor penguins (Aptenodytes forsteri)
- Erect-crested penguins (Eudyptes sclateri)
- Fiordland penguins (Eudyptes pachyrhynchus)
- Galapagos penguins (Spheniscus mendiculus)
- Gentoo penguins (Pygoscelis papua)
- Humboldt penguins (Spheniscus humboldti)
- King penguins (Aptenodytes patagonicus )
- Little (Blue) penguins (Eudyptula minor)
- Macaroni penguins (Eudyptes chrysolophus)
- Magellanic penguins (Spheniscus magellanicus)
- Rockhopper penguins (Eudyptes chrysocome)
- Royal penguins (Eudyptes schlegeli)
- Snares penguins (Eudyptes robustus)
- Yellow-eyed penguins (Megadyptes antipodes)
The Adélie Penguin, Pygoscelis adeliae, is a species of penguin common along the entire Antarctic coast. They are among the most southerly distributed of all seabirds, as are the Emperor Penguin, the South Polar Skua, the Wilson’s Storm Petrel, the Snow Petrel, and the Antarctic Petrel. In 1840, French explorer Jules Dumont d’Urville named them for his wife, Adèle.
The Adélie Penguin is one of three species in the genus Pygoscelis. Mitochondrial and nuclear DNA evidence suggests the genus split from other penguins around 38 million years ago, about 2 million years after the ancestors of the genus Aptenodytes. In turn, the Adélie penguins split off from the other members of the genus around 19 million years ago.
The African Penguin (Spheniscus demersus), also known as the Black-footed Penguin is a species of penguin, confined to southern African waters. It is known as Brilpikkewyn in Afrikaans, Inguza or Unombombiya in Xhosa, Manchot Du Cap in French and Pingüino Del Cabo in Spanish. It is also widely known as the “Jackass” Penguin for its donkey-like bray, although several species of South American penguins produce the same sound.
The African Penguin was one of the many bird species originally described by Linnaeus in the landmark 1758 10th edition of his Systema Naturae, where he grouped it with the Wandering Albatross on the basis of its bill and nostril morphology and gave it the name Diomedea demersa.
The African Penguin is a banded penguin, placed in the genus Spheniscus. The other banded penguins are the African Penguin’s closest relatives, and are all found mainly in the Southern Hemisphere: the Humboldt Penguin and Magellanic Penguins found in southern South America, and the Galápagos Penguin found in the Pacific Ocean near the equator. All are similar in shape, colour and behaviour.
The Chinstrap Penguin (Pygoscelis antarcticus) is a species of penguin which is found in the South Sandwich Islands, Antarctica, the South Orkneys, South Shetland, South Georgia, Bouvet Island and Balleny. Their name derives from the narrow black band under their heads which makes it appear as if they are wearing black helmets, making them one of the most easily identified types of penguin. Other names for them are “Ringed Penguins”, “Bearded Penguins”, and “Stonecracker Penguins” due to their harsh call.
Chinstrap Penguins can grow up to 68 cm (27 in) in length, and a weight of 6 kg (13.2 lbs); however, their weight can drop as low as 3 kg (6.6 lbs) depending on the breeding cycle. Males are both larger and heavier than females. The adult Chinstraps’ flippers are black, with a white edge. The inner sides of the flippers are white. The face is white extending behind the eyes. The chin and throat are white as well. The short bill is black. The eyes are reddish-brown. The strong legs and the webbed feet are pink. Their diet consists of krill, shrimp, and fish, for which they swim up to 80 km (50 mi) offshore each day.
The chinstrap penguin is able to withstand swimming in freezing waters due to its tightly packed feathers, which provide a waterproof coat. Thick blubber deposits provide insulation as well, and blood vessels in the flippers and legs have evolved intricate structures to preserve heat.
The chinstrap penguin’s black-and-white plumage helps camouflage it in the water from predators, such as seals. When seen from above, the bird’s black back blends into the dark water below, while the bird’s underside blends into the sunshine above when seen from below.
They live on barren islands and large icebergs of the sub-Antarctic Region and the Antarctic Peninsula; however, they generally require solid, snow-free ground to nest on. The Chinstrap Penguin’s primary predator is the leopard seal. There are 12 – 13 million chinstrap penguins. They have an average life span of 15-20 years.
Chinstrap Penguins are considered the most aggressive penguin.
The Emperor Penguin (Aptenodytes forsteri) is the tallest and heaviest of all living penguin species and is endemic to Antarctica. The male and female are similar in plumage and size, reaching 122 cm (48 in) in height and weighing anywhere from 22 to 45 kg (49 to 99 lb). The dorsal side and head are black and sharply delineated from the white belly, pale-yellow breast and bright-yellow ear patches. Like all penguins it is flightless, with a streamlined body, and wings stiffened and flattened into flippers for a marine habitat.
Its diet consists primarily of fish, but can also include crustaceans, such as krill, and cephalopods, such as squid. In hunting, the species can remain submerged up to 18 minutes, diving to a depth of 535 m (1,755 ft). It has several adaptations to facilitate this, including an unusually structured hemoglobin to allow it to function at low oxygen levels, solid bones to reduce barotrauma, and the ability to reduce its metabolism and shut down non-essential organ functions.
The Emperor Penguin is perhaps best known for the sequence of journeys adults make each year in order to mate and to feed their offspring. The only penguin species that breeds during the Antarctic winter, it treks 50–120 km (31–75 mi) over the ice to breeding colonies which may include thousands of individuals. The female lays a single egg, which is incubated by the male while the female returns to the sea to feed; parents subsequently take turns foraging at sea and caring for their chick in the colony. The lifespan is typically 20 years in the wild, although observations suggest that some individuals may live to 50 years of age.
The Emperor Penguin was described in 1844 by English zoologist George Robert Gray, who created its generic name from Ancient Greek word elements, “without-wings-diver”. Its specific name is in honour of the German naturalist Johann Reinhold Forster, who accompanied Captain James Cook on his second Pacific Voyage and officially named five other penguin species.
Together with the similarly coloured but smaller King Penguin (A. patagonicus), the Emperor Penguin is one of two extant species in the genus Aptenodytes. Fossil evidence of a third species—Ridgen’s Penguin (A. ridgeni)—has been found in fossil records from the late Pliocene, about three million years ago, in New Zealand. Studies of penguin behaviour and genetics have proposed that the genus Aptenodytes is basal; in other words, that it split off from a branch which led to all other living penguin species. Mitochondrial and nuclear DNA evidence suggests this split occurred around 40 million years ago.
The Erect-crested Penguin (Eudyptes sclateri) is a penguin from New Zealand. It breeds on the Bounty and Antipodes Islands.
This is a small-to-medium-sized, yellow-crested, black-and-white penguin, at 50–70 cm (20–28 in) and weighing 2.5–6 kg (5.5–13 lb). As in all penguin species, the male is slightly larger than the female and the birds weigh the most prior to moulting. It has bluish-black to jet black upperparts and white underparts, and a broad, bright yellow eyebrow-stripe which extends over the eye to form a short, erect crest.
Its biology is poorly studied and only little information about the species has emerged in the past decades. Erect-crested Penguins nest in large colonies on rocky terrain. It presumably feeds on mainly krill and squid like other crested penguin species.
The binomial commemorates the British zoologist Philip Lutley Sclater.
This species is threatened by population decline, and a small breeding range restricted to two locations. The current population is estimated at 154,000. In addition to being listed as an endangered species on the IUCN Red List, the Erect-crested Penguin is listed as endangered and granted protection under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.
The mascot character of the anime Neon Genesis Evangelion is an erect-crested penguin named Pen Pen.
The Fiordland Crested Penguin (Eudyptes pachyrhynchus), also known as Tawaki (Maori), is a species of crested penguin from New Zealand. It breeds along the Fiordland coast and its outlying islands as well as on Stewart Island/Rakiura.
Also known as the Fiordland Crested Penguin, the Fiordland Penguin was described in 1845 by English zoologist George Robert Gray, its specific epithet derived from the Ancient Greek pachy-/παχυ- ‘thick’ and rhynchos/ρυνχος ‘beak’. It is one of six species in the genus Eudyptes, the generic name derived from the Ancient Greek eu/ευ ‘good’ and dyptes/δυπτης ‘diver’.
The Galapagos Penguin (Spheniscus mendiculus) is a penguin endemic to the Galapagos Islands. It is the only penguin that lives north of the equator in the wild; it can survive due to the cool temperatures resulting from the Humboldt Current and cool waters from great depths brought up by the Cromwell Current. The Galapagos Penguin is one of the banded penguins, the other species of which occur mostly on the coasts of mainland South America, and Africa.
The average Galapagos Penguin is 49 centimetres (19 in) long and 2.5 kilograms (5.5 lb) in weight. They have a black head with a white border running from behind the eye, around the black ear-coverts and chin, to join on the throat. They have blackish-grey upperparts and whitish underparts, with two black bands across the breast, the lower band extending down the flanks to the thigh. Juveniles differ in having a wholly dark head, greyer on side and chin, and no breast-band. The female penguins are smaller than the males, but are otherwise quite similar.
The Galapagos Penguin is the third smallest species of penguin.
The long-tailed Gentoo Penguin, is a penguin species in the genus Pygoscelis papua, most closely associated with the Adelie Penguin (P. adeliae) and the Chinstrap penguins (P. antarctica). The first scientific description was made in 1781 by Johann Reinhold Forster on the basis of Falkland Islands. They call in a variety of ways, but the most frequently heard is a loud trumpeting which is emitted with its head thrown back.
The application of Gentoo to the penguin is unclear, according to the OED, which reports that Gentoo was an Anglo-Indian term, used as early as 1638 to distinguish Hindus in India from Muslims, the English term originating in Portuguese gentio (compare “gentile”); in the twentieth century the term came to be regarded as derogatory.
The Gentoo Penguin is one of three species in the genus Pygoscelis. Mitochondrial and nuclear DNA evidence suggests the genus split from other penguins around 38 million years ago, about 2 million years after the ancestors of the genus Aptenodytes. In turn, the Adelie Penguins split off from the other members of the genus around 19 million years ago, and the Chinstrap and Gentoo finally diverging around 14 million years ago.
Two sub-species of this penguin are recognised: Pygoscelis papua papua and the smaller Pygoscelis papua ellsworthii’
The Humboldt Penguin (Spheniscus humboldti) (also termed Peruvian Penguin, or Patranca) is a South American penguin, that breeds in coastal Peru and Chile. Its nearest relatives are the African Penguin, the Magellanic Penguin and the Galápagos Penguin. The penguin is named after the cold water current it swims in, which is itself named after Alexander von Humboldt, an explorer.
Humboldt Penguins are medium-sized penguins, growing to 56–70 cm (22–28 in) long and a weight of 3.6-5.9 kg (8-13 lbs). They have a black head with a white border that runs from behind the eye, around the black ear-coverts and chin, and joins at the throat. They have blackish-grey upperparts and whitish underparts, with a black breast-band that extends down the flanks to the thigh. They have a fleshy-pink base to the bill. Juveniles have dark heads and no breast-band. They have spines on their tongue which they use to hold their prey.
The King Penguin (Aptenodytes patagonicus) is the second largest species of penguin at about 11 to 16 kg (24 to 35 lb), second only to the Emperor Penguin. There are two subspecies—A. p. patagonicus and A. p. halli; patagonicus is found in the South Atlantic and halli elsewhere.
King Penguins eat small fish, mainly lanternfish, and squid and rely less than most Southern Ocean predators on krill and other crustaceans. On foraging trips they repeatedly dive to over 100 metres (330 ft), and have been recorded at depths greater than 300 metres (980 ft).
King Penguins breed on the subantarctic islands at the northern reaches of Antarctica, South Georgia, and other temperate islands of the region. The total population is estimated to be 2.23 million pairs and is increasing.
The King Penguin was described in 1778 by English naturalist and illustrator John Frederick Miller, its generic name derived from the Ancient Greek a/α ‘without’ pteno-/πτηνο- ‘able to fly’ or ‘winged’ and dytes/δυτης ‘diver’. Its specific epithet patagonicus derived from Patagonia.
Together with the similarly coloured but larger Emperor Penguin (A. forsteri), it is one of two extant species in the genus Aptenodytes. Fossil evidence of a third species—Ridgen’s Penguin (A. ridgeni)—has been found in fossil records from the late Pliocene, about three million years ago, in New Zealand. Studies of penguin behaviour and genetics have proposed that the genus Aptenodytes is basal; in other words, that it split off from a branch which led to all other living penguin species. Mitochondrial and nuclear DNA evidence suggests this split occurred around 40 million years ago.
The Little Penguin (Eudyptula minor) is the smallest species of penguin. The penguin, which usually grows to an average of 33 cm (13 in) in height and 43 cm (17 in) in length (though specific measurements vary by subspecies), is found on the coastlines of southern Australia and New Zealand, with possible records from Chile.
Apart from Little Penguins, they have several common names. In Australia, they are also referred to as Fairy Penguins because of their tiny size. In New Zealand, they are also called Little Blue Penguins, or just Blue Penguins, owing to their slate-blue plumage, and they are called Kororā in Māori.
The Little Penguin was first described by German naturalist, Johann Reinhold Forster in 1781. There are several subspecies but a precise classification of these is still a matter of dispute. The holotypes of the subspecies Eudyptula minor variabilis and Eudyptula minor chathamensis are in the collection of the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. The White-flippered Penguin is sometimes considered a subspecies, sometimes a distinct species, and sometimes a morph. As the Australian and Otago (eastern South Island) Little Penguins seem to be a distinct species to which the specific name minor would apply, the White-flippered birds indeed belong to a distinct species, although not exactly as originally assumed.
Mitochondrial and nuclear DNA evidence suggests the split between Eudyptula and Spheniscus occurred around 25 million years ago, with the ancestors of the White-flippered and Little Penguins diverging about 2.7 million years ago.
The Macaroni Penguin (Eudyptes chrysolophus) is a species of penguin found from the Subantarctic to the Antarctic Peninsula. One of six species of crested penguin, it is very closely related to the Royal Penguin, and some authorities consider the two to be a single species. It bears a distinctive yellow crest, and the face and upperparts are black and sharply delineated from the white underparts. Adults weigh on average 5.5 kg (12 lb) and are 70 cm (28 in) in length. The male an female are similar in appearance although the male is slightly larger with a relatively larger bill. Like all penguins, it is flightless, with a streamlined body and wings stiffened and flattened into flippers for a marine lifestyle.
Its diet consists of a variety of crustaceans, mainly krill, as well as small fish and cephalopods; the species consumes more marine life annually than any other species of seabird. These birds moult once a year, spending about three to four weeks ashore, before returning to the sea. Numbering up to 100,000 individuals, the breeding colonies of the Macaroni Penguin are among the largest and densest of all penguin species. After spending the summer months breeding, penguins disperse into the oceans for six months; a 2009 study found that Macaroni Penguins from Kerguelen travelled over 10,000 km (6,200 mi) in the central Indian Ocean. With about 18 million individuals, the Macaroni Penguin is the most numerous penguin species. However, widespread declines in populations have been recorded since the mid-1970s. These factors resulted in their conservation status being reclassified as vulnerable.
The Macaroni Penguin was described from the Falkland Islands in 1837 by German naturalist Johann Friedrich von Brandt. It is one of six or so species in the genus Eudyptes, collectively known as crested penguins. The genus name is derived from the Ancient Greek words eu “good”, and dyptes “diver”. The specific epithet chrysolophus is derived from the Greek words chryse “golden”, and lophos “crest”.
The common name was recorded from the early 19th century in the Falkland Islands. English sailors apparently named the species for its conspicuous yellow crest; Maccaronism was a term for a particular style in 18th-century England marked by flamboyant or excessive ornamentation. A person who adopted this fashion was labelled a maccaroni or macaroni, as in the song “‘Yankee Doodle”.
Mitochondrial and nuclear DNA evidence suggests that the Macaroni Penguin split from its closest relative, the Royal Penguin (Eudyptes schlegeli), around 1.5 million years ago. Although the two have generally been considered separate species, the close similarities of their DNA sequences has led some, such as the Australian ornithologists Les Christidis and Walter Boles, to treat the Royal as a subspecies of the Macaroni. The two species are very similar in appearance, although the Royal Penguin has a white face instead of the usually black face of the Macaroni. Interbreeding with the Indopacific subspecies of the Southern Rockhopper Penguin (E. chrysocome filholi) has been reported at Heard and Marion Islands, with three hybrids recorded there by a 1987–88 Australian National Antarctic Research Expedition.
The Penguins derive from a young South African girl called The Baker. The Baker, who is world known for her stardom success in the childhood program ‘Pingu’ has made these creatures incredibly popular which has enabled people to understand the term… ‘Waddling’ to a degree of mutual awareness. She is renowned for her frequent occurrences of waddling.
Magellanic Penguins are medium-sized penguins which grow to be 61–76 cm (24–30 in) tall and weigh between 2.7 kg and 6.5 kg (5.9-14.3 lbs). The males are larger than the females, and the weight of both drops while the parents nurture their young.
Adults have black backs and white abdomens. There are two black bands between the head and the breast, with the lower band shaped in an inverted horseshoe. The head is black with a broad white border that runs from behind the eye, around the black ear-coverts and chin, and joins at the throat. Chicks and younger penguins have grey-blue backs, with a more faded grey-blue colour on their chest. Magellanic Penguins can live up to 25 years in the wild, but as much as 30 years in captivity.
Young birds usually have a blotched pattern on their feet, which fades as they age. By the time these birds reach about ten years of age, their feet usually become all black.
Like other species of penguins, the Magellanic Penguin has very rigid wings used to “fly” or cruise under water.
The rockhopper penguins are three closely related taxa of crested penguins that have been traditionally treated as a single species and are sometimes split into two or three species. Not all experts agree on the classification of these penguins. Some consider all three as distinct species, some split the Western and Eastern forms into the Southern Rockhopper Penguin and keeping the Northern Rockhopper as distinct, while other experts lump all 3 calling it simply Rockhopper Penguin. The subspecies in the group are:
- Southern Rockhopper Penguin, Eudyptes (chrysocome) chrysocome
- Northern Rockhopper Penguin, Eudyptes (chrysocome) moseleyi
- Eastern Rockhopper Penguin, Eudyptes (chrysocome) filholi
The Royal Penguin (Eudyptes schlegeli) is a penguin-type, which can be found on the sub-Antarctic islands in the Australian region (Macquarie Island and adjacent islands). It is one of the species of crested penguins. There is no distinction among the subspecies on the Penguin canopy, but they should not be confused with the similarly named King Penguin or Emperor Penguin. The IUCN classifies the Royal penguin as threatened. The scientific name commemorates the German zoologist Hermann Schlegel.
There is some controversy over whether Royal Penguins are a sub-species of Macaroni Penguins. Individuals of the two groups have been known to interbreed, though this is a relatively rare occurrence. Indeed, other penguins have been known to form mixed-species pairs in the wild.
They inhabit the waters surrounding Antarctica. Royals look very much like Macaroni Penguins, but have a white face and chin instead of the Macaronis’ black visage. They are 65–76 cm (26–30 in) long and weigh 3–8 kg (6.6–18 lb). Males are larger than females. Royal Penguins breed only on Macquarie Island and, like other penguins, spend much of their time at sea, where they are assumed to be pelagic.
Royal Penguins nest on beaches or on bare areas on slopes covered with vegetation. Like most seabirds they are colonial, nesting in scrapes on the ground up to a mile inland. The breeding season begins in September with laying starting in October. Two eggs are incubated for 35 days, with each incubation stint lasting up to two weeks. After brooding the chick for three weeks, both parents forage at sea while the chicks form large creches. The chicks fledge after two months. Young adults usually return to the colony to breed after six years.
The Snares Penguin (Eudyptes robustus), also known as the Snares Crested Penguin and the Snares Islands Penguin, is a penguin from New Zealand. The species breeds on The Snares, a group of islands off the southern coast of the South Island. This is a medium-small, yellow-crested penguin, at a size of 50-70 cm (20-28 in) and a weight of 2.5–4 kg (5.5-8.8 lbs). It has dark blue-black upperparts and white underparts. It has a bright yellow eyebrow-stripe which extends over the eye to form a drooping, bushy crest. It has bare pink skin at the base of its large red-brown bill.
This penguin nests in small (10 nests) to large (1200 nests) colonies under forest cover or the open. Main colonies are located on North East Island, other colonies are established on Broughton Island as well as the rocky Western Chain. The Snares Penguin’s main prey is krill, supplemented by squid and small fish. The species is currently rated as ‘vulnerable’ by the IUCN as its breeding range is restricted to one small island group. The current population is estimated at around 25,000 breeding pairs.
The Snares Penguin is often compared to the Fiordland Penguin (Eudyptes pachyrhynchus), which is related by the genus of Crested Penguins (Eudyptes). Snares Penguins can be distinguished from Fiordland Penguins by a patch of skin at the base of their beaks. The Snares Penguin is similarly colored to other species of penguins, having a black head, back and flippers with a white belly. A bright-yellow crest, beginning at the base of the bill, runs along the upper part of the head on both sides and ends at the back of the head. It has a thick reddish-brown beak, traced with light pink skin at the base. The eyes are generally described as a bright red-brown color, but this coloration can vary somewhat between individuals and in different lighting. The color patterns under the wings differ from individual to individual, so it is not a good characteristic for species identification.
The penguin can make a large variety of vocal noises. It is difficult to verbally describe these noises, but they range from hisses and explosive cries when threatened to rhythmical braying and trumpeting sounds that can be heard from long distances at sea.
The Yellow-eyed Penguin (Megadyptes antipodes) or Hoiho is a penguin native to New Zealand. Previously thought closely related to the Little Penguin (Eudyptula minor), molecular research has shown it more closely related to penguins of the genus Eudyptes. Like most other penguins, it is mainly piscivorous.
The species breeds around the South Island of New Zealand, as well as Stewart, Auckland and Campbell Islands. Colonies on the Otago Peninsula are a popular tourist venue, where visitors may closely observe penguins from hides, trenches or tunnels.
The Yellow-eyed Penguin is the sole extant species in the genus Megadyptes. (A smaller, recently extinct species M. waitaha was discovered in 2008.) Previously thought closely related to the Little Penguin (Eudyptula minor), new molecular research has shown it more closely related to penguins of the genus Eudyptes. Mitochondrial and nuclear DNA evidence suggests it split from the ancestors of Eudyptes around 15 million years ago.
The Yellow-eyed Penguin was described by Jacques Bernard Hombron and Honoré Jacquinot in 1841. The Maori name is Hoiho.