The 18 Best Penguin Species (All Of Them)
Today is World Penguin Day, and to celebrate we're taking a look at each of the planet's 18 species of penguin.
Standing just over 4 feet tall and weighing up to 100 pounds, the stately Emperor Penguin is the tallest and heaviest of all penguin types, and among the largest birds on the planet. The species, at home along the entire coastline of Antarctica, are perhaps the most widely recognizable penguins, having appeared in the numerous films, like March of the Penguins and Happy Feet.
King Penguins are the second-largest penguin species, inhabiting several island chains in the subantarctic. As serial monogamist, these penguins form massive colonies every breeding season, several of which are composed of well over 100,000 pairs, each working in tandem to hatch just a single egg. All told, there are an estimated 2.23 million pairs of King Penguins in existence, and that number is increasing.
While many penguins possess rather elegant appearance, Adélie Penguins are probably the most tuxedoed-looking species of all. The mid-sized birds live along the coast of the continent of Antarctica, feeding on a diet mostly of krill, which they hunt down by swimming at speeds of up to 45 miles per hour.
With distinctive band of black feathers across their necks to either side of their heads, Chinstrap Penguins look somewhat like they're wearing a biker's helmet, and they have a similar temperament to boot. The species, which congregates on icebergs and small, barren islands in the sub-Antarctic region, are said to be the boldest and most aggressive of all penguin species.
Most closely related to Adelie and Chinstraps, Gentoo Penguins are the third largest of all penguins, standing around 35 inches tall. The penguins can be found in colonies on the continent of Antarctica as well as islands throughout the sub-Antarctic. Gentoos are listed as "near threatened," with some populations having experienced declines of two-thirds in the last 25 years.
Little Blue Penguin
Growing just 13 inches tall, Little Blue Penguins certainly earn that name when compared to their larger counterparts. The species is found on the southern coasts of Australia and New Zealand, though like many flightless birds there, they are prone to attack by invasive predators.
White-flippered Penguins are considered a subspecies of Little Blue Penguins and can only be found nesting in two locations near Christchurch, New Zealand. Currently, there are only around 3,750 breeding pairs in existence, prompting them to be listed as an endangered species.
Magellanic Penguins are native to South America, with large colonies along the coasts of Argentina and Chile. The species numbers in the millions, but are still considered under significant threat from climate change and oil spills along their migration routes, which is responsible for the deaths of tens of thousand young penguins every year.
Humboldt Penguins share a similar range with their Magellanic counterparts, nesting on the rocky shores of Peru and Chile, though they occasionally venture as far north as Ecuador and Colombia. This species too is listed as threatened due to over-fishing, climate change, and habitat loss.
The only penguin species that lives entirely in the Northern Hemisphere, Galapagos Penguins take their name from the archipelago they inhabit. During the 1980s, the penguins' numbers declined by around 70 percent, reducing the population to just around 1,500 by 2004. Conservation efforts are helping Galapagos Penguins to recover, though they are still listed as an endangered species.
African Penguins are found on the south-western coast of Africa, cooling themselves in the warm climate by circulating blood through pink glands above their eyes. Due to a drop in fish stocks due to commercial fishing, the species has experienced significant declines over the last century and are currently at about 5 percent of their pre-industrial population.
The carmel-hued Yellow-eyed Penguin is endemic to the south-eastern coast of New Zealand, with colonies on several smaller islands nearby. Only about 4,000 of these birds remain, under threat from habitat loss and invasive predators. In 2010, they were officially listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act.
(Photo via penguins.com.au)
Fiordland Penguins are one of eight "crested" species of penguins, featuring two bright yellow eyebrow stripes extending from just above their eyes to the back of their necks. Like many other species native to New Zealand, Fiordland Penguins too are threatened from introduced predators. Currently, there are as few as 2,5000 of these penguins in existence.
Snare Penguins take their name from the small group of islands they breed on off the coast of New Zealand, The Snares. Quite similar in appearance to their mainland counterparts, the Fiordland Penguin, Snare Penguins are distinguished by black coloring on the base of their beaks. Though not directly under threat, because of their centralized population, they are particularly vulnerable to sudden environmental changes.
(Photo via penguins.com.au)
Erect-crested Penguins breed on two islands in New Zealand, numbering around 130,000. The species has yet to be studied extensively, though biologists say their populations are in decline, prompting them to be listed as endangered.
Rockhopper penguins are found in colonies in several group throughout the sub-Antarctic, leading some biologists to classify them as two or three distinct subspecies, though they are all nearly identical in appearance. Smaller than their crested New Zealand counterparts, Rockhoppers are smaller and have less pronounced eyebrow stripes.
Macaroni Penguins can be found in sub-Antarctic islands stretching from the southern tip of South America to off of the Cape Horn in Africa. The species was once considered the most numerous of penguins, with an estimated 18 million mature individuals.
Royal Penguin are native to Macquarie Island, near Australia. They are very similar in appearance to Macaroni Penguins, but have a white face. Some biologists dispute whether Royals should be consider their own species, or rather just a color-morph subspecies. But given the opportunity to decide, this writer will always err on the side of more penguins.
(All photos via Wikimedia Commons unless otherwise credited.)