20+ Types of Penguins: Everything You Need to Know

Written by Heather Hall
Updated: May 3, 2023
© Benny Cottele/Shutterstock.com
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Penguins are a family of flightless aquatic birds that live in the Southern Hemisphere, with the exception of one penguin species that lives north of the equator. Penguins’ black and white coats act as camouflage when they are in the water. They have built-in flippers, making them excellent swimmers, and sharp bills with which they catch fish and squid. There are 21 species, among six genera of penguins. Keep reading to learn more about these fascinating birds.

The Six Genera of Penguins

GenusSpecies
Great Penguins (Aptenodytes)King penguin (Aptenodytes patagonicus)
Emperor penguin (Aptenodytes forsteri)
Brush-Tailed Penguins (Pygoscelis)Adelie penguin (Pygoscelis adeliae)
Chinstrap penguin (Pygoscelis antarcticus)
Gentoo penguin (Pygoscelis papua)
Little Penguins (Eudyptula)Little penguin (Eudyptula minor)
Australian little penguin (Eudyptula novaehollandiae)
Banded Penguins (Spheniscus)Magellanic penguin (Spheniscus magellanicus)
Humboldt penguin (Spheniscus humboldti)
Galapagos penguin (Spheniscus mendiculus)
African penguin (Spheniscus demersus)
Yellow-eyed Penguins (Megadyptes)Yellow-eyed penguin (Megadyptes antipodes)
Waitaha penguin (Megadyptes waitaha)
Crested penguins (Eudyptes)Fiordland penguin (Eudyptes pachyrhynchus)
Snares penguin (Eudyptes robustus)
Erect-crested penguinEudyptes sclateri)
Southern rockhopper penguin (Eudyptes chrysocome)
Northern rockhopper penguin (Eudyptes moseleyi)
Royal penguin (Eudyptes schlegeli)
Macaroni penguin (Eudyptes chrysolophus)
Chatham penguin (Eudyptes warhami)
This chart shows the six genera of penguins as well as the 21 species

Species of Penguins

There are twenty-one living species of penguins, though two of them are thought to be extinct. According to the conservation status provided by the International Union for Conservation (IUCN). The IUCN was established in 1964 to provide a comprehensive list of extinction statuses for many animal species. What follows is a comprehensive list describing each penguin species in detail.

King Penguin (Aptenodytes patagonicus)

The king penguin is the second largest penguin species and is very similar in appearance and size to the emperor penguin. King penguins enjoy eating lanternfish, krill, and squid. They have been seen diving up to 300 feet deep to hunt for food. There are several animals that like to eat king penguins, including leopard seals, orcas, and giant petrels. Ocean warming is quickly threatening the king penguin, which is expected to lose 70 percent of its population over the next 80 years.

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4 mostly black and white king penguins walk side-by-side along a beach.
The King penguin is the second largest penguin species, very similar in appearance and size to the emperor penguin.

©fieldwork/Shutterstock.com

Emperor Penguin (Aptenodytes forsteri)

The Emperor penguin is the largest penguin species, weighing 60-100 pounds. Male and female emperor penguins are around the same size, and both have yellow markings on their chest and ears. Emperor penguins are the only species of penguin to breed during winter. They form breeding colonies with several thousand members! Female emperor penguins lay only one egg each year. It is incubated for two months, kept warm by the male. Once the baby hatches, the parents take turns caring for, foraging, and feeding the chick. Emperor penguins like to eat fish, crustaceans, and krill. They can dive up to 1,700 feet deep and stay underwater for up to 20 minutes! The emperor species are listed as near threatened by IUCN Red List. https://www.iucnredlist.org

4 emperor penguins (Aptenodytes Forsteri) - walking on a beach
Male and female emperor penguins are about the same size, and both have yellow markings on their chest and ear.

©Phil West/Shutterstock.com

Adelie Penguin (Pygoscelis adeliae)

Adelie penguins live along the coastline of Antarctica. French explorer Jules Dumont d’Urville discovered these penguins in 1840 and named them after his wife, Adelie. These penguins eat silverfish, lanternfish, krill, and squid. Adelie penguins breed from October through February and have two eggs per clutch. They incubate these eggs for a little over one month, with both parents taking turns warming the eggs. Adelie penguins fall prey to leopard seals and south polar skuas.

An Adelie penguin jumping off of an ice shelf, midway to the water with its flippers extended behind it and its feet splayed in front.
Adelie penguins are named for the wife of French explorer Jules Dumont d’Urville who discovered this species in 1840.

©Benny Cottele/Shutterstock.com

Chinstrap Penguin (Pygoscelis antarcticus)

Chinstrap penguin lives in the South Pacific and Antarctic Oceans, spending half their time in the water and half on land. They are named for the black band at their necks which makes them appear to be wearing a helmet with a chin strap. Because of this chin marking, they are also called ringed penguins and bearded penguins. Chinstrap penguins build round nests out of rocks in which to lay their clutch of two eggs. Both male and female chinstraps are involved with keeping the eggs warm until they hatch at approximately 37 days. Chinstrap penguins are one of the more aggressive penguins and have a sharp, loud call. 

Close up of a chinstrap penguin. The penguin has a black head with a white face. A thin, but distinct black line runs the perimeter of the penguin's face making it appear to be wear ing a black helmet or hat with a chinstrap.
Chinstrap Penguins are named for the black band at their necks that makes them appear to be wearing a helmet with a chin strap.

©Jerzy Strzelecki, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons – License

Gentoo Penguin (Pygoscelis papua)

The gentoo penguin has a white stripe on top of its head, making it appear to be wearing a hat.k. Gentoo penguins grow to almost 3 feet tall, weighing between 11 and 19 pounds. This penguin likes to form breeding colonies in ice-free zones and make nests out of stones placed amongst the grass. Part of the Gentoo mating ritual includes male penguins offering precious stones to the female to construct the nest. They lay two eggs, and the parents share in the task of keeping the eggs warm. Gentoos eat crustaceans and prefer krill and shrimp when they can find them. 

Ablack and white gentoo penguin standing on rock with water in the background, plus a reflection of the rock in the water.
Gentoo penguins have the longest tails of any penguin species

©Zee Evans – Public Domain

Little Penguin (Eduyptula minor)

Little penguin is native to New Zealand. Sometimes called little blue penguins thanks to their dark blueish-black feathers, and their small stature, weighing in at three pounds and only one foot tall! Their diet consists of small fish like herring, shad, and sardines. The little penguin population in New Zealand is steadily declining, and some colonies have already become extinct. There are fewer than 500,000 little penguins left in the wild, according to the IUCN Red List. 

a little penguin standing on sand, a green plan can be seen in the right bottom corner of the frame, and water comprises the background
Little penguins got their name thanks to their small stature.

©Aaron Jacobs / Creative Commons

Australian Little Penguin (Eudyptula noaehollandiae)

Australian little penguins are sometimes called fairy penguins. They are about one foot tall and weigh an average of three pounds. They are gray and blue with blue flippers and a black beak. Australian little penguins are one of the few birds that create a double brood, meaning they lay eggs in a second nest after their first brood has fledged, hoping to increase their likelihood of success. These penguins eat small fish like anchovy, shad, and herring, as well as crustaceans. 

fairy penguin standing on a rock next to a body of Bluegreen water. The fire penguin has iridescent blue feathers down its back and on top of its head. Its belly is white feathers.
Australian little penguins eat small fish like anchovy, shad, and herring, as well as crustaceans. 

©Khoroshunova Olga/Shutterstock.com

Magellanic Penguin (Spheniscus magellanicus)

The Magellanic penguin lives in South America. It was named after the famous explorer Ferdinand Magellan who first spotted the birds in 1520. Magellanic penguins grow to 30 inches tall and weigh up to 14 pounds. They are black and white, with black feet and bills. Their favorite foods are cuttlefish, squid, and krill. Magellanic penguins travel in large groups when they hunt, breed, and nest. They lay two eggs at once and incubate them for 42 days. The eggs are kept warm by both parents, and the chicks are fed and cared for by both parents. Climate change has decreased fish populations, forcing these penguins to swim more than 50 miles in search of food, while leaving their mates alone in the nest with nothing to eat. 

A pair of Magellanic penguins staring next to each other in a small bald area of dirt, surrounded golden blades of grass. The penguins arehave black backs and white bellies.
Climate change has decreased fish populations, forcing Magellanic penguins to swim more than 50 miles in search of food.

©Bernard Gagnon / Creative Commons

Humboldt Penguin (Spheniscus humboldti)

The Humboldt penguin is medium-sized and lives in South America, with a large population residing on the coastline of Peru. Humboldt penguins eat fish and cephalopods, like squid and octopus. They are shallow divers and prefer to hunt close to home, rarely traveling farther than 20-40 miles in search of prey. Humboldt penguins (both male and female) court each other with a series of head nods, dances, wing flaps, and one-eyed glances. Humboldt penguins lay two eggs that incubate for 41 days, with both parents providing warmth for the eggs and food for the chicks. The Humboldt penguin is listed as a vulnerable species, with fewer than 32,000 remaining in the wild. 

Adult Humboldt Penguin fishing, with Fish in its beak, against a background of blue water. The penguin is black on its back with a white belly.

©slowmotiongli/Shutterstock.com

Galapagos Penguin (Spheniscus mendiculus)

The Galapagos penguin is the only penguin found north of the equator, on the islands of Galapagos, Ecuador. Because of its warm environment, they have developed unique ways of staying cool, including spending more time in the water, shading their feet with their flippers, and panting like dogs. Galapagos penguins are small-sized banded penguins that are 20 inches tall and weigh between 6 and 10 pounds. Galapagos penguins select one mate for life, with a year-round breeding season. Their mating rituals include flipper patting, mutual grooming, and bill touching. They lay one or two eggs in a protected, cool area and incubate them for 40 days. Both parents incubate the eggs and feed and groom the new chick(s). Galapagos penguin’s diet consists primarily of mullet and sardines. Galapagos penguins are listed as an endangered species, with only 1,200 left in the wild. 

Two Galapagos penguins. The penguin on the left is facing right, and  the penguin on the right seems to be grooming themselves, with its black beak pointing down and partially buried in its black feathers, The penguins have back backs and white bellies.
The Galapagos penguin is the only penguin found north of the equator.

African Penguin (Spheniscus demersus)

The African penguin is also called the Cape penguin and the South African penguin. In the past, they were called jackass penguins because of their loud donkey-like braying. African penguins weigh between five and seven pounds and grow up to 28 inches tall. They have black and white bodies, black feet and bills, and distinct pink patches above their eyes. African penguins eat fish and squid. Like Galapagos penguins, African penguins mate for life. They have a clutch of two eggs, with both parents taking turns incubating the eggs over a 40-day span. The African penguin is listed as an endangered species. Fewer than 50,000 are left in the wild, decreasing annually. 

Five African penguins, four of them to the right in the frame and one toward the left standing in we sand near a body of water with some gentle waves.  The penguin on the left has its head hanging down. The other four penguins appear to waddling toward the water, which is drab.
African penguins weigh between five and seven pounds and grow up to 28 inches tall.

©tato grasso / Creative Commons

Yellow-Eyed Penguin (Megadyptes antipodes)

The yellow-eyed penguin lives in New Zealand along the Eastern and Southeastern coasts and a few islands. Both mainland and island yellow-eyed penguins are in sharp decline due to rising ocean temperatures, fisheries, and human pollution. Yellow-eyed penguins are listed as an endangered species on the IUCN Redlist. Fewer than 3500 are left in the wild, and their numbers decline yearly. Yellow-eyed penguins are easily picked out of a crowd because of the band of yellow feathers that rings their eyes and head. They are 31 inches tall and weigh between 11 and 13 pounds. Their diet consists of cod and opal fish. Yellow-eyed penguins lay two eggs and incubate them for 39-51 days. Both parents share the incubation, foraging, and feeding chores. 

Close up of a yellow-eyed penguin, The penguin has a black back, a white front, and a distinct band of yellow feathers around its eyes and the back of its head, Its actual eye is amber with a back pupil. Its beak is deep orange to red.
Yellow-eyed penguins are in sharp decline due to rising ocean temperatures, fisheries, and human pollution.

©Anders Peter Photography/Shutterstock.com

Waitaha Penguin (Megadyptes waitaha)

The Waitaha penguin now extinct for hundreds of years, was native to New Zealand. What we know about the Waitaha penguin was discovered by studying their bones and testing their DNA. They are believed to have been about ten percent smaller than the yellow-eyed penguin, a close relative of the Waitaha penguin. The Waitaha penguin is named after the Maori iwi Waitaha tribe, who shared their home. 

A yellow-eyed penguin standing in all grass of tan and green, with out of focus greenery in the background. The penguin has a black back and a white front, with a distinct band of yellow feathers around its eyes and the back of its head.
Waitaha Penguins, are believed to have been about ten percent smaller than the yellow-eyed penguin (pictured here).

©Michaël CATANZARITI, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons – License

Fiordland Penguin (Eudyptes pachyrhynchus) 

The Fiordland penguin is also called the Fiordland crested penguin because of its impressive yellow-crested eyebrows. These birds nest in colonies, building their nests in tree roots and rocky outcroppings along the coast and coastal forests of New Zealand. Eighty-five percent of their diet consists of arrow squid, and the rest is crustaceans. Fiordland penguins’ numbers are decreasing, threatened by predators such as dogs, cats, rats, and stoats. Fiordland penguins will flee their nest and never return if disturbed while incubating an egg. The Fiordland penguin is listed as a vulnerable species, with fewer than 10,000 left in the wild and numbers that continue to decrease every year. 

close up of a Fiordland penguin, facing left. It is back pn its back, white on its belly, and it has an interesting crested yellow eyebrow, and an bright orange beak against a deep green background of out of focus flora.
The Fiordland penguin is also called the Fiordland crested penguin because of its impressive yellow-crested eyebrows.

©iStock.com/Darren Creighton

Snares Penguin (Eudyptes robustus)

The snares penguin, also the Snares crested penguin, and the snares island penguin is native to New Zealand and lives on the Snares Islands. Standing 27 inches tall and weighing up to eight pounds, It has white undersides and a blueish-black upper side. They have a bright yellow stripe across their eyebrows making Snares penguins easy to identify. This species forms colonies of up to 1,200 birds. Snares penguins eat krill with a side dish of squid.

During their courtship ritual, the male attempts to attract a mate by thumping its chest with its wings. Once coupled, the next step is building the nest and laying two eggs, five days apart. The second egg is more than twice the size of the first egg and hatches first. The chick from the smaller egg does not often survive. This odd egg-laying behavior is an adaptive response to environmental conditions meant to reduce brood size. Snares penguins are listed as a vulnerable species, with 63,000 remaining in the wild. 

Fve Snares Penguin (Eudyptes robustus), standing around on a rock outcropping.  The have white fronts, black backs, pink feet, and dark orange beaks. A think pale yellow line encircles their heads at eye level, and they have pale yellow crested eyebrows.
During their courtship ritual, the male Snares penguin attempts to attract a mate by thumping its chest with its wings.

©lin padgham / Creative Commons

Erect-Crested Penguin (Eudyptes sclateri)

The erect-crested penguin is yet another New Zealand native, this one living on Bounty Island and Antipodes Island. It also has a black upper body, a white underside, a yellow eye stripe, and a tufted yellow crest. Erect-crested penguins are 28 inches tall and weigh between 6 and 13 pounds. Because thy spend their winters at sea, there are few opportunities to study their breeding habits. Their populations have been declining since the 1940s. Erect-crested penguins have been named an endangered species, with fewer than 150,000 left in the wild and steadily decreasing numbers. 

full frame of wo erect-crestd penguins facing each other. They have white fronts, black backs, black faces, brilliant yellow crested brows above their iron-rich blood red eyes. Background appears to be more erect-crested penguins, only out-of-focus.
There are few opportunities to study the erect-crested penguin’s breeding habits.

©iStock.com/Michel VIARD

Southern Rockhopper Penguin (Eudyptes chrysocome)

The Southern rockhopper penguin lives in the cold waters of the Subantarctic Western Pacific and Indian Oceans, with a few making their homes (nests)along the South American Southern Coast. This penguin is the smallest in the genus Eudyptes, coming in at only 23 inches tall and having a maximum weight of 7.5 pounds. The name rockhoppers stem from their unique way of getting around obstacles: they hop over them, using their flippers to help them jump. Only 2.5 million Southern rockhopper penguins remain in the wild, and according to IUCN Red List, they are decreasing and listed as a vulnerable species

The rockhoppers stems from their unique way of getting around obstacles: hopping over them, using their flippers to help them jump.

©iStock.com/Dgwildlife

Northern Rockhopper Penguin (Eudyptes moseleyi)

The Northern rockhopper penguin is native to the Southern Atlantic and Indian Oceans. Their diet consists primarily of krill, but they will also eat octopus, fish, and squid. Northern rockhopper penguins breed in colonies built cliffside or at sea level. They sing songs to each other during mating season, and their colonies have thousands of pairs of penguins. There has been a 90 percent decrease in their numbers since the 1950s, and they are now considered an endangered species. The reduction in the number of northern rockhopper penguins is due to climate change and human overfishing. Only 480,000 Northern rockhoppers penguins remained in the wild as of 2018. 

A close-up of a Northern rockhopper penguin. white belly, black elsewhere on its body, with very long yellow crested brow feathers and an orange beak against a tn background, out of focus, but probably sand.
Northern rockhopper penguins sing songs to each other during mating season.

©iStock.com/chris2766

Royal Penguin (Eudyptes schlegeli)

Royal penguins are native to Macquarie Island in the Southwestern Pacific Ocean. Whether or not royal penguins are a subspecies of macaroni penguins is a hot topic. Royal and macaroni penguins do look a lot alike, both with black upper parts, white underparts, and a yellow plume on top of their heads. Royal penguins are about 30 inches tall and weigh between 7-17 pounds, breeding in colonies and laying two eggs. The parents share the job of keeping the eggs warm. After hatching, the male takes care of the chick for three weeks. 

Full frame of a Royal Penguin, with a mostly white face, with a fantastic yellow crested brow, with red accents, smallish black eyes, and and orange=to-rown beak. The left half of its body is black, the right  half, white.
Royal penguins are native to Macquarie Island in the Southwestern Pacific Ocean.

©AndreAnita/Shutterstock.com

Macaroni Penguin (Eudyptes chrysolophus)

The macaroni penguin lives in the Antarctic Peninsula. It has a yellow crest on its head, a black face, and a white underbelly. Adults are 28 inches tall and weigh 12 pounds. They primarily subsist on crustaceans, like krill. Their breeding colonies are large, containing over 100,000 individual penguins. When the male macaroni penguin is attempting to attract a mate, he puts on quite the display – bowing forward, making undulating sounds, and extending his head and neck to the sky. He also dances, preens, brays loudly, and moves his head from side to side while trumpeting. Who could resist this lovely dance? After she lays her egg, both parents take turns keeping it warm. After hatching, the male alone takes care of the young while the female brings food daily. IUCN Redlist marks the macaroni as a vulnerable species with rapidly declining numbers. 

Close up of a macaroni penguin. The penguin has a yellow crest on its head, a red beak, a black face, and a white underbelly. Photo background  consists of out-of-focus macaroni penguins.
The macaroni penguin has a yellow crest on its head, a black face, and a white underbelly.

©Jerzy Strzelecki / Creative Commons – License

Chatham Penguin (Eudyptes warhami)

The Chatham penguin, also called the Chatham crested penguin, is an extinct species of penguin that once lived on the Chatham Islands in New Zealand. Its bones and DNA, suggest that it has been extinct since approximately 200 years after humans moved to the island around A.D. 1500. Experts believe that humans hunted Chatham penguins to extinction along with a species of sea lion, although this is simply speculation based on available evidence. 

An artist's rendering of what a Chatham penguin may have looked like. In the illustration, there is one closer penguin in the center of the frame standing on a rock, its back oriented toward the viewer. Five (smaller, farther away) penguins are standing on lower rocks with semi-rough looking water in the background.
An artist imagines what a Chatman penguin, extinct for over 500 years, may have looked like.

©Sean Murtha / CC BY-SA 4.0 – License

Penguins, flightless aquatic birds found scattered about the Southern most reaches of the planet are desperately trying to survive in a world that is warming more rapidly than these fascinating creatures can adapt, leaving many species vulnerable to extinction.


The Featured Image

An Adelie penguin jumping off of an ice shelf, midway to the water with its flippers extended behind it and its feet splayed in front.
© Benny Cottele/Shutterstock.com

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About the Author

I am a freelance writer with 22 years of experience. I live in the Pacific Northwest and am surrounded by nature. When I go for my daily runs I often see herds of elk, deer, and bald eagles. I am owned by two dogs who take me on hikes in the mountains where we see coyotes, black bears, and wild turkeys.

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Sources
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  6. marimeorinthology.org, Available here: http://www.marineornithology.org/content/get.cgi?rn=278