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Penguin

Penguin (Aptenodytes Forsteri)Penguin (Aptenodytes Forsteri)Penguin (Aptenodytes Forsteri)Penguin (Aptenodytes Forsteri)Penguin (Aptenodytes Forsteri)
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Penguin Facts

Kingdom:
Five groups that classify all living things
Animalia
Phylum:
A group of animals within the animal kingdom
Chordata
Class:
A group of animals within a pylum
Aves
Order:
A group of animals within a class
Sphenisciformes
Family:
A group of animals within an order
Spheniscidae
Scientific Name:
The name of the animal in science
Aptenodytes Forsteri
Type:
The animal group that the species belongs to
Bird
Diet:
What kind of foods the animal eats
Omnivore
Size (H):
How long (L) or tall (H) the animal is
40cm - 110cm (15.7in - 43in)
Wingspan:
The measurement from one wing tip to the other
60cm - 130cm (23.6in - 21in)
Weight:
The measurement of how heavy the animal is
1kg - 35kg (2.2lbs - 75lbs)
Top Speed:
The fastest recorded speed of the animal
65km/h (40mph)
Lifespan:
How long the animal lives for
20 - 30 years
Lifestyle:
Whether the animal is solitary or sociable
Group
Conservation Status:
The likelihood of the animal becoming extinct
Threatened
Colour:
The colour of the animal's coat or markings
Black, White, Grey, Yellow
Skin Type:
The protective layer of the animal
Feathers
Favourite Food:
The preferred food of this animal
Fish
Habitat:
The specific area where the animal lives
Cold seas and rocky land
Average Clutch Size:
The average number of eggs laid at once
1
Main Prey:
The food that the animal gains energy from
Fish, Crabs, Squid
Predators:
Other animals that hunt and eat the animal
Leopard Seals, Sharks, Killer Whale
Distinctive Features:
Characteristics unique to this animal
Short, sharp beak and slight webbed feet

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Penguin Location

Map of Penguin Locations

Penguin

Penguins are one of the most beloved animals on the planet!


Their tuxedo coloring, adorable waddle, and cute faces make penguins one of the most beloved animals in the world. From the equatorial deserts of Africa to the Nordic grasslands of Scandinavia, humans can’t help but ooooh and awww over the aquatic, flightless birds! A lot of folks mistakenly believe that penguins only live in the North and South Poles, but in reality, they live throughout the Southern Hemisphere. One species even nests close to the equator. However, none live in or around the Arctic Circle.

Scientists are locked in a debate about penguin taxonomy and genetic links, but they all agree that at least 15 species currently inhabit the earth.

 

Fun and Fascinating Penguin Facts

 

  • Human-sized penguins waddled around the Earth in prehistoric times. The Anthropornis nordenskjoeldi reached heights of 1.8 meters (5 feet 11 inches) and tipped the scale at 90 kilograms (200 pounds). The emergence of large-toothed whales and seals likely led to the extinction of giant penguins.
  • In 1948, a Florida man named Tony fashioned himself a pair of 30-pound, three-toed lead shoes and stomped around beaches at night to further a myth that a 15-foot-tall penguin ruled the surf at night. He did it for ten years, never got caught, and didn’t reveal the hoax until 40 years later.
  • Penguins’ black and white coloring is defensive camouflage.
  • Despite the Falkland’s active landmines, the island cluster has morphed into a makeshift nature preserve for penguins because the animals are too lightweight to trigger the mines.
  • The oldest known penguin species in the fossil record is the Waimanu manneringi, which lived 62 million years ago.

 

Penguin Scientific Name


The exact etymology of the word "penguin" is up for debate. The word first appeared in the 1700s as a synonym for the great auk, a now-extinct marine bird that sported similar coloring to penguins but wasn't related. Some believe the made-up synonym derived from the French word "pingouin," which sailors used for auk birds.

The Oxford English Dictionary, American Heritage Dictionary, and Merriam-Webster credit Welsh with the word. They hypothesize that penguin was a mash-up of "pen" — the Welsh word for head — and "gwyn" — the Welsh word for white — because great auks were first seen on White Head Island in Newfoundland.

Other linguists believe penguin has Latin roots, linking it to the word "pinguis," meaning "fat" or "oil." They pin this theory on a Germanic word for penguin, "fettgans," which translates to "fat goose," and a Dutch word for the animal, "vetgans," which also roughly translates to "fat goose."

Types of Penguins

Aptenodytes (great penguins)Aptenodytes patagonicusA. p. Patagonicus / A. p. halliKing penguin
Aptenodytes (great penguins)Aptenodytes forsteriNoneEmperor penguin
Pygoscelis (brush-tailed penguins)Pygoscelis adeliaeNoneAdélie penguin
Pygoscelis (brush-tailed penguins)Pygoscelis antarcticaNoneChinstrap penguin, Ringed penguin, Bearded penguin, Stonecracker penguin
Pygoscelis (brush-tailed penguins)Pygoscelis papuaNoneGentoo penguin
Eudyptula (little penguins)Eudyptula minorE. m. variabilis / E. m. chathamensis
Little penguin taxonomy is still very much fluid and disputed.
Little blue penguin, Little penguin, Fairy penguin, Māori name: Kororā
Eudyptula (little penguins)Eudyptula novaehollandiaeLittle penguin taxonomy is still very much fluid and disputed.Australian little penguin
Eudyptula (little penguins)Eudyptula albosignataLittle penguin taxonomy is still very much fluid and disputed.White-flippered penguin
Spheniscus (banded penguins)Spheniscus magellanicusNoneMagellanic penguin
Spheniscus (banded penguins)Spheniscus humboldtiNoneHumboldt penguin
Spheniscus (banded penguins)Spheniscus mendiculusNoneGalapagos penguin
Spheniscus (banded penguins)Spheniscus demersusNoneAfrican penguin, Cape penguin, South African penguin
MegadyptesMegadyptes antipodesNoneYellow-eyed penguin, Hoiho, Tarakaka
Eudyptes (crested penguins)Eudyptes pachyrhynchusNoneFiordland penguin, Fiordland crested penguin, New Zealand crested penguin, Māori name: Tawaki or Pokotiwha
Eudyptes (crested penguins)Eudyptes robustusNoneSnares penguin
Eudyptes (crested penguins)Eudyptes sclateriNoneErect-crested penguin
Eudyptes (crested penguins)Eudyptes chrysocomeE. c. chrysocome /

E. c. filholi – Eastern
Southern rockhopper penguin
Eudyptes (crested penguins)Eudyptes filholiThe eastern rockhopper penguin is considered a subspecies of the southern rockhopper penguin by some scientists and its own species by others.Eastern rockhopper penguin
Eudyptes (crested penguins)Eudyptes moseleyiNoneNorthern rockhopper penguin
Eudyptes (crested penguins)Eudyptes schlegeli (disputed)Some scientists think Eudyptes schlegeli penguins are a subspecies of Macaroni penguins. Others disagree.Royal penguin
Eudyptes (crested penguins)Eudyptes chrysolophusSome scientists think Eudyptes schlegeli penguins are a subspecies of Macaroni penguins. Others disagree.Macaroni penguin

 

Penguin Appearance and Behavior

 

Penguin Appearance


Penguins have a signature look: black backs and white fronts. The technical term for their coloring is "counter-shading." It's an evolutionary advantage that serves as spectacular camouflage because penguin predators have difficulty distinguishing between a white underbelly and reflective water surface. On land, the black back helps penguins blend into the rocky terrain on which many species nest and breed.

They may look sleek and leathery, but penguins are covered in feathers, and their plumage serves two primary purposes. Firstly, it helps with buoyancy and contributes to their agile swimming skills. Secondly, penguin feathers act as insulation, which allows the birds to withstand frigid water and air temperatures.

Several penguin species have a distinct aesthetic flare. Rockhoppers sport fancy crests and feathers on their heads. Chinstrap penguins feature a white band across their jaw areas, and golden feathers adorn the necks and heads of giant penguins. Cape penguins don distinctive pink patches above their eyes, and little blue penguins have blue-tinted feathers instead of jet black.

Every so often, a penguin is born with light-brown feathers instead of black. They're known as isabelline penguins, and they tend to live shorter lives because of their inferior camouflage — but they are beautiful!

 

chinstrap penguin - Pygoscelis <a href=antarctica - penguin with chin markings looking at camera" height="370" src="/media/animals/images/470x370/penguin6.jpg" width="470" />

 

Average Sizes of Penguin Species

Aptenodytes patagonicus70 to 100 centimeters (28 to 39 inches)9.3 to 18 kilograms (21 to 40 pounds)
Aptenodytes forsteri122 centimeters (48 inches)22 to 45 kilograms (49 to 99 pounds)
Pygoscelis adeliae46 to 71 centimeters (18 to 28 inches)3.6 to 6.0 kilograms (7.9 to 13.2 pounds)
Pygoscelis antarctica68 to 76 centimeters (27 to 30 inches)3.2 to 5.3 kilograms (7.1 to11.7 pounds)
Pygoscelis papua51 to 90 centimeters (20 to 35 inches)4.9 to 8.5 kilograms (11 to 19 pounds)
Eudyptula minor30 to 33 centimeters (12 to 13 inches)1.5 kilograms (3.3 pounds)
Eudyptula novaehollandiae30 to 33 centimeters (12 to 13 inches)1.5 kilograms (3.3 pounds)
Eudyptula albosignata30 centimeters (12 inches)1.5 kilograms (3.3 pounds)
Spheniscus magellanicus61 to 76 centimeters (24 to 30 inches)2.7 to 6.5 kg (6.0 to 14.3 pounds)
Spheniscus humboldti56 to 70 centimeters (22 to 28 inches)3.6 to 5.9 kilograms (8 to13 pounds)
Spheniscus mendiculus49 centimeters (19 inches)2.5 kilograms (5.5 pounds)
Spheniscus demersus60 to 70 centimeters (24 to 28 inches)2.2 to 3.5 kilograms (4.9 to 7.7 pounds)
Megadyptes antipodes62 to 79 centimeters (24 to 31 inches)3 to 8.5 kilograms (6.6 to 18.7 pounds)
Eudyptes pachyrhynchus60 centimeters (24 inches)3.7 kilograms (8.2 pounds)
Eudyptes robustus50 to 70 centimeters (19.5 to 27.5 inches)2.5 to 4 kilograms (5.5 to 8.8 pounds)
Eudyptes sclateri50 to 70 centimeters (20 to 28 inches)2.5 to 6 kilograms (5.5 to 13.2 pounds)
Eudyptes chrysocome5 to 58 centimeters (18 to 23 inches)2 to 4.5 kilograms (4.4 to 9.9 pounds)
Eudyptes filholi45 to 55 centimeters (17.7 to 21.6 inches)2.2 to 4.3 kilograms (4.9 to 9.4 pounds)
Eudyptes schlegeli65 to 76 centimeters (26 to 30 inches)3 to 8 kilograms (6.6 to 17.6 pounds)
Eudyptes chrysolophus70 centimeters (28 inches)5.5 kilograms (12 pounds)

 

Penguin Behavior


When land-bound and standing upright, penguins use their tails and wings for balance. If time is of the essence, penguins slide on their bellies and use their feet to propel and steer. The technique is called “tobogganing.” Penguins are also skilled jumpers and do so when traversing prickly terrain.

Penguins are very social animals that hang out in large groups called colonies. As such, they’ve developed vocal and visual communication skills and standards. Adult male penguins are "cocks," and females are "hens." A group of penguins on land is called a "waddle"; a group in the water is a "raft."

 

Penguin Habitats


Wild penguins live almost exclusively in the Southern Hemisphere, save for banded penguins, which live near the equator and sometimes migrate into the Northern Hemisphere. Significant populations exist in Angola, Antarctica, Argentina, Australia, Chile, Namibia, New Zealand, South Africa, and the Falkland Islands. Furthermore, penguins in captivity live in zoos and animal sanctuaries around the world.

The chart below details specific habitat regions for the different penguin species.

 

Primary Locations of Penguin Species Around the World

Aptenodytes patagonicusKing penguinIslands in the South Atlantic and South Indian Oceans
Aptenodytes forsteriEmperor penguinIslands in the Antarctic and Sub-Antarctic Region
Pygoscelis adeliaeAdélie penguinAntarctic Continent, Southern Ocean
Pygoscelis antarcticaChinstrap penguinIslands in the Southern Pacific and Antarctic Oceans
Pygoscelis papuaGentoo penguinIslands in the Antarctic Region, Falkland Islands, South Georgia
Eudyptula minorLittle blue penguinNew Zealand, Chile, South Africa
Eudyptula novaehollandiaeAustralian little penguinAustralia
Eudyptula albosignataWhite-flippered penguinBanks Peninsula, Motunau Island
Spheniscus magellanicusMagellanic penguinArgentina, Chile, Falkland Islands
Spheniscus humboldtiHumboldt penguinPinguino de Humboldt National Reserve in Northern Chile, Peru
Spheniscus mendiculusGalapagos penguinArchipiélago de Colón
Spheniscus demersusCape penguinSouthwestern African Coast
Megadyptes antipodesYellow-eyed penguinNew Zealand Coasts and Islands
Eudyptes pachyrhynchusFiordland penguinSouthwestern New Zealand Coasts and Surrounding Islands
Eudyptes robustusSnares penguinSnares Islands
Eudyptes sclateriErect-crested penguinBounty and Antipodes Islands
Eudyptes chrysocomeSouthern rockhopper penguinSubantarctic of the Western Pacific and Indian Oceans
Eudyptes filholiEastern rockhopper penguinPrince Edward, Crozet, Kerguelen, Heard, Macquarie, Campbell, Auckland, and the Antipodes Islands
Eudyptes moseleyiNorthern rockhopper penguinTristan da Cunha, Inaccessible Island, Gough Island
Eudyptes schlegeli (disputed)Royal penguinSubantarctic islands, Macquarie Island
Eudyptes chrysolophusMacaroni penguinIslands in Subantarctic and Antarctic Peninsula

 

Penguin Diet


All penguins are carnivores that dine on marine life. They’re pescatarians! Specific diets, however, are regionally dependent. The chart below details the regular menu for each animal.
 

 

What Different Species of Penguins Eat

Aptenodytes patagonicusKing penguinlanternfish, squid, krill
Aptenodytes forsteriEmperor penguinfish, crustaceans, cephalopods, Antarctic silverfish, glacial squid, hooked squid, Antarctic krill
Pygoscelis adeliaeAdélie penguinAntarctic krill, ice krill, Antarctic silverfish, sea krill, glacial squid
Pygoscelis antarcticaChinstrap penguinsmall fish, krill, shrimp, squid
Pygoscelis papuaGentoo penguinfish, krill, squat lobsters, squid
Eudyptula minorLittle blue penguinclupeoid fish, cephalopods, crustaceans, arrow squid, slender sprat, Graham's gudgeon, red cod, ahuru, barracouta, anchovy, arrow squid
Eudyptula novaehollandiaeAustralian little penguinpilchards, anchovies, cephalopods, crustaceans
Eudyptula albosignataWhite-flippered penguinVery little is known about the white-flippered penguin, including diet specifics.
Spheniscus magellanicusMagellanic penguincuttlefish, squid, krill
Spheniscus humboldtiHumboldt penguinkrill, small crustaceans, squid, fish
Spheniscus mendiculusGalapagos penguinsmall fish, mullet, sardines
Spheniscus demersusCape penguinsardines, anchovies, squid, small crustaceans
Megadyptes antipodesYellow-eyed penguinblue cod, red cod, opalfish, New Zealand blueback sprat, arrow squid
Eudyptes pachyrhynchusFiordland penguinarrow squid, krill, red cod, hoki
Eudyptes robustusSnares penguinkrill, small fish, cephalopods
Eudyptes sclateriErect-crested penguinsmall fish, krill, squid
Eudyptes chrysocomeSouthern rockhopper penguinkrill, squid, octopus, lantern fish, mollusks, plankton, cuttlefish, crustaceans
Eudyptes filholiEastern rockhopper penguinsmall fish, octopus, squid, and krill-like crustaceans
Eudyptes moseleyiNorthern rockhopper penguinkrill, crustaceans, squid, octopus, fish
Eudyptes schlegeli (disputed)Royal penguinkrill, fish, squid
Eudyptes chrysolophusMacaroni penguinkrill, crustaceans, cephalopods

 

Penguin Predators and Threats


Climate change is a massive threat for several penguin species, and marine-life conservationists are working against time to develop solutions. Natural penguin predators include leopard seals, sharks, killer whales, fur seals, and sea lions.

 

Penguin Reproduction, Babies, and Lifespan

 

Penguin Reproduction


Penguins breed on either ice blocks or rocky outcrops. Except for yellow-eyed and Fiordland species, penguins breed in large colonies, ranging from 100 pairs to hundreds of thousands for the chinstrap, king, and Macaroni.

Penguins stay monogamous for the breeding season, but chinstrap penguins often mate for life! Most pairs produce two eggs per clutch. Larger penguins, aka the “great penguins,” only lay one. Most species only lay one brood per mating season, but little penguins may lay several.

Relative to adult penguins’ sizes, their eggs are small. However, the shells are extra-thick and serve as protection against rough terrain. Fascinatingly, when Aptenodytes forsteri (emperor penguins) lose an egg or a chick, they try to kidnap another pair’s offspring. Penguin snatching seldom succeeds, but it doesn’t stop them from trying!

Aptenodytes forsteri males handle all the incubation duties. Both parents share responsibility in the other species. Incubation shifts can last days or weeks while one parent heads out to forage for food.

 

Penguin Babies


Baby penguins are called “chicks” or “nestlings.” When they gather in a group, it’s called a “crèches.” Newborn penguins are dependent on their parents until they grow waterproof feathers. For some species, that may only be seven to nine weeks. For other species, it may be as long as 13 months.

 

Penguin Lifespans


A penguin’s life expectancy is dependent on species, but ranges from 6 to 30 years.

 

Average Lifespan of Penguin Species

Aptenodytes patagonicusKing penguin26 Years
Aptenodytes forsteriEmperor penguin20 Years
Pygoscelis adeliaeAdélie penguin20 Years
Pygoscelis antarcticaChinstrap penguin15 to 20 Years
Pygoscelis papuaGentoo penguin13 Years
Eudyptula minorLittle blue penguin6 Years
Eudyptula novaehollandiaeAustralian little penguin7 Years
Eudyptula albosignataWhite-flippered penguin15 to 20 Years
Spheniscus magellanicusMagellanic penguin30 Years
Spheniscus humboldtiHumboldt penguin15 to 20 Years
Spheniscus mendiculusGalapagos penguin15 to 20 Years
Spheniscus demersusCape penguin10 to 27 Years
Megadyptes antipodesYellow-eyed penguin23 Years
Eudyptes pachyrhynchusFiordland penguin10 to 20 Years
Eudyptes robustusSnares penguin11 years
Eudyptes sclateriErect-crested penguin15 to 20 Years
Eudyptes chrysocomeSouthern rockhopper penguin10 Years
Eudyptes filholiEastern rockhopper penguin10 Years
Eudyptes moseleyiNorthern rockhopper penguin10 Years
Eudyptes schlegeli (disputed)Royal penguin15 to 20 Years
Eudyptes chrysolophusMacaroni penguin8 to 15 Years

 

Penguin Population



Some penguin species are stable. Climate change and human encroachment, however, are pushing others closer to extinction. Below, is an outline of penguin population estimates, in addition to their conservation status according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

 

Penguin Population Estimates and Conservation Status

Aptenodytes patagonicusKing penguin2.2 to 3.2 Million Breeding PairsLeast Concern (IUCN)
Aptenodytes forsteriEmperor penguin130,000 to 250,000 Breeding PairsNear Threatened (IUCN)
Pygoscelis adeliaeAdélie penguin4.5 Million Breeding PairsLeast Concern (IUCN)
Pygoscelis antarcticaChinstrap penguin7.5 Million Breeding PairsLeast Concern (IUCN)
Pygoscelis papuaGentoo penguin387,000 Breeding PairsLeast Concern (IUCN)
Eudyptula minorLittle blue penguin350,000 to 600,000 Individual AnimalsLeast Concern (IUCN)
Eudyptula novaehollandiaeAustralian little penguin350,000 to 600,000 Individual AnimalsLeast Concern (IUCN)
Eudyptula albosignataWhite-flippered penguin3,750 Breeding PairsThreatened (ESA)
Spheniscus magellanicusMagellanic penguin1.3 Million Breeding PairsNear Threatened (IUCN)
Spheniscus humboldtiHumboldt penguin32,000 Adult IndividualsVulnerable (IUCN)
Spheniscus mendiculusGalapagos penguinLess Than 1,000 Breeding PairsEndangered (IUCN)
Spheniscus demersusCape penguinLess Than 40,000 Individual AdultsEndangered (IUCN)
Megadyptes antipodesYellow-eyed penguin4,000 Individual AdultsEndangered (IUCN)
Eudyptes pachyrhynchusFiordland penguin3,000 Breeding PairsVulnerable (IUCN) / Endangered (DOC)
Eudyptes robustusSnares penguin25,000 Breeding PairsVulnerable (IUCN)
Eudyptes sclateriErect-crested penguin150,000 Adult IndividualsEndangered (IUCN)
Eudyptes chrysocomeSouthern rockhopper penguin1.5 Million Pairs (For All Rockhopper Penguins)Vulnerable (IUCN)
Eudyptes filholiEastern rockhopper penguin1.5 Million Pairs (For All Rockhopper Penguins)Vulnerable (IUCN)
Eudyptes moseleyiNorthern rockhopper penguin100,000 to 499,999 Breeding Pairs at Gough Island, 18,000 to 27,000 Pairs At Inaccessible Island, 3,200 to 4,500 on Tristan da CunhaEndangered (IUCN)
Eudyptes schlegeli (disputed)Royal penguin1.5 Million Pairs (For All Rockhopper Penguins)Near Threatened (IUCN)
Eudyptes chrysolophusMacaroni penguin18 Million IndividualsVulnerable (IUCN)

Penguin FAQ

 

Are penguins HerbivoresCarnivores, or Omnivores?

Penguins are carnivores who eat a seafood-based diet of various marine life, including squid, krill, fish, and crustaceans.

 

Why don't penguins fly?

Although penguins have wings, unlike most other bird species, they can not fly. However, their wings still get a lot of use since they have evolved to help penguins swim! In a way, they are just flying underwater.

 

Why do penguins waddle?

As an observer, seeing a penguin waddle may not seem like a very efficient way of moving, but it is actually a great use of their short legs and big feet - which evolved that way for swimming. By swaying back and forth and using gravity to their advantage, penguins are able to move without wasting unnecessary energy.

 

Are Penguins Dangerous?


Generally, penguins aren’t afraid of humans. Nor do they act aggressively. However, penguins typically don’t get closer than 3 meters (9 feet) to people and humans should respect their space as well.

The story of Lala testifies to penguins’ affinity with people. Found tangled in a fisherman’s net with a broken beak and wing, Lala found temporary salvation on the rescue vessel. Once they returned home, the fisherman gave Lala to the Nishimoto family, the neighborhood animal doctors, who built him a refrigerated room and nursed him back to health! Lala grew so attached to the family that he didn’t want to leave. So every day, Lala accompanied the family to the fish market. Soon, he started going by himself and dutifully returning to his refrigerated palace! In short order, everyone in town had met the popular penguin, and Lala started running errands for the family using a specially designed backpack!

Although penguins are gentle animals, it’s always wise to keep one’s distance unless a trained handler is around.

 

What Are Some Interesting Facts About Penguins?

  • It’s not uncommon for penguins to form same-sex couplings.
  • Magellanic penguins have a special salt-clearing gland that allows them to drink as much ocean water as they wish without adverse effects.
  • Macaroni penguins consume more marine animals than any other seabird.
  • Penguins spend between 50 to 75 percent of their time in the water, depending on species.
  • The nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte, the French ruler, was instrumental in outlining penguin taxonomy.

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First Published: 5th December 2008, Last Updated: 8th July 2020

Sources:
1. Christopher Perrins, Oxford University Press (2009) The Encyclopedia Of Birds [Accessed at: 01 Jan 2009]
2. David Burnie, Dorling Kindersley (2008) Illustrated Encyclopedia Of Animals [Accessed at: 05 Dec 2008]
3. David Burnie, Kingfisher (2011) The Kingfisher Animal Encyclopedia [Accessed at: 01 Jan 2011]
4. Dorling Kindersley (2006) Dorling Kindersley Encyclopedia Of Animals [Accessed at: 05 Dec 2008]
5. Richard Mackay, University of California Press (2009) The Atlas Of Endangered Species [Accessed at: 01 Jan 2009]
6. Tom Jackson, Lorenz Books (2007) The World Encyclopedia Of Animals [Accessed at: 05 Dec 2008]