8 Types of Penguins in Antarctica

Types of Penguins in Antarctica
Photo by NOAA

There are 17 penguin species on the earth, but just eight different types of Penguins in Antarctica, its neighboring islands, and the sub-Antarctic archipelagos of South Georgia and the Falkland Islands.

Two of the eight penguin species are endemic to Antarctica (the emperor penguin and the Adélie penguin), three species are found in both the northern Antarctic and the sub-Antarctic islands (the chinstrap, macaroni, and gentoo penguins), and three species are found only on the sub-Antarctic islands (rockhoppers, Megallanics, and kings).

We’ll offer you the essential details on each of them right here. When you travel on any exciting Antarctica excursions, you will be perfectly prepared to recognize and discuss any of the eight great penguin species you may encounter.

1. Emperor Penguin

Emperor penguins may be the most iconic of all penguin species on the earth. It also helps that they are the biggest penguins out there; Emperor penguins can reach 122 cm in height and weigh 22 to 45.

They feed on crabs, squid, and fish and thrive in the Ross Sea and the Weddell Sea, particularly on Snow Hill Island.

Emperor penguins rarely venture north to sub-Antarctic waters, where they form enormous colonies on sea ice.

Emperor penguins are the only types of penguins in Antarctica that reproduce throughout the winter. Baby emperor penguin chicks are born between July and the middle of August, but they cannot venture out into the water on their own until January.

The female lays just one egg, which she then transfers to the male, who incubates it while she goes out to sea to feed. The male fasts for nine weeks while keeping the egg warm, dropping up to 45 percent of his body weight.

When the sea ice begins to melt in December and January, the emperor penguin family migrates out to sea. Scientists believe that the adults carry the chick to sea when there is plenty of food so that it can learn to be self-sufficient.

Emperor penguins dive deeper and for longer than any other bird, reaching depths of nearly 200 meters (700 feet) and remaining below for up to 18 minutes.

While they have a remarkable survival rate, they are also the rarest penguin, with just about 220,000 breeding pairs remaining today. In the wild, they survive for about 15-20 years.

2. Adélie Penguin

Adélies, the most widely dispersed types of penguins in Antarctica and even throughout the world, spend the winter on the northern Antarctic pack ice and return to the continental coastline of Antarctic islands in the summer.

Antarctica is home to an estimated 2.5 million breeding pairs of Adélie penguins. They weigh between 3.6 and 6.0 kg, stand 46 to 71, and eat fish and krill.

Even though Adélie penguins can dive to 175 meters (574 feet), they often grab their prey on the surface.

Adélie penguins live in thousands-strong breeding colonies, giving birth to young throughout the Southern Hemisphere summer.

Their breeding period is one of the shortest of any penguin species, and courtship is similarly brief, consisting primarily of flipper-waving and calls. In mid-November, the Adélie female produces two eggs, which are cared for by both parents until they hatch.

Adélie chicks are particularly vulnerable during the infant stage, and only around two-thirds survive. Once at sea, however, the young Adélies are very safe and have an average lifespan of 11-20 years.

Gentoo penguins are believed to number around 300,000 breeding pairs in the Antarctic region, ranking them second only to emperor penguins in terms of population scarcity.

3. Gentoo Penguin

Gentoos are the third largest types of penguins in Antarctica after emperors and kings, standing 50 – 90 cm tall and weighing 4.5 – 8.5 kg as adults. They consume squid, fish, and crustaceans.

Gentoo penguins breed in huge, gregarious colonies around the northern Antarctic Peninsula, the South Sandwich Islands, the South Shetlands, the South Orkneys, and the sub-Antarctic Falkland and South Georgia.

They lay eggs on beaches and grass tufts and are fierce in guarding their territory. Gentoos build their nests with stones, and males frequently present stones to females as wooing gifts.

They’ll also attract females by trumpeting, and if a female Gentoo chooses a mate, both sexes aim their bills at the female’s nest.

Egg laying can begin as early as June but may not start until December in colder places. Gentoo penguins are monogamous and might have up to three breeding seasons before finding new companions.

Female gentoo penguins deposit two eggs and alternate incubation chores with males daily. Gentoo penguin babies require about 35 days to hatch and another month to fledge, at which point they can venture out to sea. Gentoo chicks, unlike other penguins, fledge before becoming independent.

They live for roughly 15-20 years and are among the fastest swimming birds, reaching speeds of up to 36 kilometers per hour (22 mph).

4. Chinstrap penguin

The fourth mention on our list of types of penguins in Antarctica is the chinstrap penguin, mainly endemic to Sub-Antarctica.

Adult chinstrap penguins are among the most numerous penguins on the planet, standing 68 to 76 cm tall and weighing 3.2 to 5.3 kg. They eat fish and krill and have two offspring per mating season, between late February and early March.

Chinstrap penguins forage near the beach, frequently among pack ice. Because they feed by pursuing prey, they have less than a minute dive periods and rarely dive deeper than 60 meters. Most of their dives are 45 meters deep (150 feet).

Chinstrap penguins may attain speeds of up to 30 kph (18 mph) in the water and slide around the ice on their stomachs, propelled by their feet and flippers.

Chinstrap penguins have a lifespan of roughly 20 years and reproduce in vast colonies, even living on icebergs floating in the open ocean at times. They are also a combative species, frequently battling with other penguins.

5. Macaroni penguin

These island-dwelling crested penguins are estimated to be 12 million pairs. Adult macaroni penguins and chinstrap penguins are nearly comparable in height and weight, reaching 70 cm and 5.5 kg with a diet primarily of fish, krill, and squid.

Macaroni penguins breed in the Falkland, South Georgia, South Sandwich, and the South Orkney Islands, close to the Antarctic Convergence.

They produce massive colonies that can number hundreds of thousands and are found on rocky cliffs and hillsides.

Macaroni penguins come to South Georgia in late October to breed and lay their eggs two weeks later. Females deposit two eggs, the first of which is significantly smaller than the second and rarely hatches.

Both parents share incubation responsibilities. However, it comes at a high energy cost: Adult macaronis can lose up to half their body weight.

After hatching, the tiny macaroni chick lives on its own for two months, with only one parent staying at home to care for it.

Because of this concentration on raising one chick, the macaroni penguin population does not experience the boom-bust population cycle that some other penguin species do.

Macaroni chicks are old enough to leave their parents and join the adult penguin population within ten weeks. In the wild, these types of penguins in Antarctica survive for about 15 years.

6. Rockhopper penguin

Rockhopper penguins are another distinct types of penguins in Antarctica; Because there is disagreement over what defines a rockhopper penguin, the species has been classified into three subspecies based on reproductive behavior and breeding location: northern, southern, and eastern rockhopper penguin.

With an estimated height of 50 cm and weight of 2.5 kg, rockhoppers are one of the smallest penguin species and the smallest of the crested penguins (5.5 pounds).

They prefer shallow water but may dive up to 100 meters (330 feet) in search of prey, which primarily consists of fish, krill, and small crustaceans.

The name “rockhopper penguin” comes from their favored habitat of rocky, windswept shorelines on islands north of Antarctica.

Rockhoppers congregate in talkative colonies that can number hundreds of thousands during their annual breeding season. They build burrows in tall tussock grasses along the sea, returning year after year to the exact breeding location, nest, and, in some cases, mate.

Over the last 30 years, habitat loss, human interference, and famine due to commercial fishing have resulted in a nearly 30% drop in the rockhopper penguin population, with the most current population estimated at 1.5 million breeding pairs. In the wild, rockhopper penguins can survive for roughly ten years.

7. Magellanic penguin

These types of penguins in Antarctica are related to Galápagos penguins, Humboldt penguins, and African penguins and are named after the legendary explorer Ferdinand Magellan.

Magellanic penguins range in height from 60 to 75 cm (23.6 to 29.5) and weigh between 2.5 and 6.5 kg (5.5 to 14.3 pounds).

They are wary of humans and would flee to their breeding burrows if they see one. When it gets too hot, they lose their beak feathers, stretch their flippers to catch a breeze, and expel excess heat.

Magellanic penguins thrive predominantly in the Falkland Islands and South America, where they are abundant, but there are only a few transient populations in South Georgia and the South Shetlands.

The Falkland Islands population is around 100,000 breeding pairs, but this is tiny compared to South America, where Magellanic penguins number over 900,000 in Argentina and 800,000 in Chile.

Magellanic prefers densely vegetated islands with deep layers of soil for burrowing, which provides protection from airborne predators. Magellanic are opportunistic feeders who consume equal parts fish, squid, and crustaceans.

They typically graze at depths of less than 50 meters (165 feet) while at sea but may occasionally dive up to 100 meters (330 feet). Magellanic penguins have a relatively long life span, reaching roughly 25 years in the wild.

8. King penguin

King penguins are the second-largest types of penguins in Antarctica after the emperor penguin, weighing approximately 16 kg and standing 94 cm tall when fully mature.

The estimated 2.2 million breeding pairs of king penguins feed on squid and fish and reside along the sub-Antarctic island beaches. They are the most maritime penguins, spending the most time on the water.

To seek prey, king penguins may dive to depths of more than 300 meters (985 ft) and stay underwater for up to nine minutes.

They are very gregarious birds that breed in enormous colonies (such as the St. Andrews Bay rookery, which has over 150,000 individuals).

King penguins have an unusual mating cycle that lasts about 14 months from courtship through offspring fledging.

King penguins do not build nests. Instead, They lay a single green-white egg, which they incubate on their webbed feet beneath a fold of skin.

Scientists have discovered that king penguins take mid-afternoon naps, sleeping more deeply after lunch than in the morning. In the wild, they can survive for about 25 years.

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