Antarctic Penguins

On this page, we continue our Antarctica series by taking a look at Antarctic penguins. We'll cover the types of penguins in Antarctica itself, and we'll also find out about penguins in the surrounding Antarctic region.

Antarctic Penguins: Introduction

They're among the world's best loved animals, and because penguins stand upright and look vaguely human they’re often portrayed as being rather comical.

In fact, penguins are highly specialised hunters, able to survive in some of the world’s harshest environments.

Very few animals other than penguins are able to make a home either in the Antarctic region or on the frozen continent of Antarctica itself.

King Penguin
A King Penguin takes a dip in the icy Southern Ocean.

On this page we’ll find out about the five species of penguin that breed on the continent of Antarctica. Then we'll look at some more penguins found in or near the Antarctic region.

Let’s learn more about Antarctic Penguins …

Penguins In Antarctica

Five species of penguin breed in Antarctica. They are the Adelie, Chinstrap, Emperor, Gentoo, and Macaroni penguin.

On this page we'll look at each of these penguins in more detail. We'll then find out about other Antarctic and subantarctic penguins.

The ‘Conservation Status’ gradings are from the IUCN Red List. You can learn more about what these mean here: Endangered Animals Facts.

Emperor Penguin (Aptenodytes forsteri)

Emperor Penguins with chicks
Emperor Penguins: click image for more information.

The Emperor Penguin is the world’s biggest penguin. It grows to around 122 cm (48 in) tall. It is only found in Antarctica (i.e. it is endemic to the continent).

The Emperor Penguin is the only species of penguin that breeds during the Antarctic winter. This allows its chicks to grow in the (slightly) warmer summer months.

In the winter Emperor Penguins huddle together for warmth in huge colonies.

  • Conservation status: Near Threatened

You can see a colony of Emperor Penguins in the incredible video below:

You can find out more about these amazing birds here: Emperor Penguin Facts

Chinstrap Penguin (Pygoscelis antarctica)

Chinstrap Penguins
Chinstrap Penguins breed on Antarctica

The Chinstrap Penguin is easily identified by the ‘strap’ of black under its bill. Although one of the five penguin species that breeds on Antarctica, the Chinstrap Penguin also breeds in Argentina, Chile, the Falkland Islands, and several other regions.

  • Conservation status: Least Concern

Adélie Penguin (Pygoscelis adeliae)

Adélie Penguin
Adélie Penguin

The Adélie Penguin is found further south than any other species of penguin. It is named after 'Adélie Land', a part of Antarctica which was itself named after a French explorer’s wife.

In the breeding season, Adélie Penguins form colonies that number over half a million birds. They are medium-sized penguins, recognisable by a white ring around their eyes.

  • Conservation status: Near Threatened

Gentoo Penguin (Pygoscelis papua)

Gentoo Penguin
Gentoo Penguins in Antarctica. Notice the white eyebrows and long tail.

You can tell a Gentoo Penguin by its white 'eyebrows'. Like most penguins it has a white chest and a black back. This breaks up its outline while swimming and protects it from predators. Gentoo penguins have longer tails than other penguins.

The Gentoo Penguin breeds in several southerly locations, including Antarctic islands and the Antarctic Peninsula of Antarctica. It is the 3rd largest penguin.

  • Conservation status: Near Threatened

You can see amazing footage of Gentoo Penguins (and the beautiful Antarctic landscape) in the video below:

Macaroni Penguin (Eudyptes chrysolophus)

SGI-2016-South Georgia (Cooper Bay)–Macaroni penguin (Eudyptes chrysolophus) 01

The Macaroni Penguin can be found on the Antarctic Peninsula and several other Antarctic and Subantarctic locations. It is easily recognised by its bright yellow crest.

Although the Macaroni Penguin is the most common of all penguins, with a global population of around 18 million, its numbers are declining. It is now rated as ‘Vulnerable’ on the IUCN Red List.

  • Conservation status: Vulnerable

Other Penguin Species

Although they don't breed on Antarctica, the King Penguin and Rockhopper penguin are found in the Antarctic region within the Antarctic Convergence.

King Penguin (Aptenodytes patagonicus)

SGI-2016-South Georgia (Fortuna Bay)–King penguin (Aptenodytes patagonicus) 04

The King Penguin is the second largest species of penguin. It can grow up to a metre (3.28 ft.) tall. It is recognisable by its orange ‘headphones’ and bill, and the faint orange markings at the top of its chest.

There are two subspecies of King Penguin: Aptenodytes patagonicus patagonicus and Aptenodytes patagonicus halli. Both are found in the northernmost parts of the Antarctic region.

Conservation status: Least Concern

Southern Rockhopper Penguin (Eudyptes chrysocome)

FAL-2016-New Island, Falkland Islands-Rockhopper penguin (Eudyptes chrysocome) 02

The Southern Rockhopper Penguin is one of the smallest penguins, standing at around 50 cm (20 in) tall. It has bright red eyes, a red beak, and spiky black and yellow feathers of its head.

There are two (possibly three!) subspecies of Rockhopper penguin. The Southern Rockhopper Penguin is found on northern Antarctic islands, as well as in several subantarctic locations. Northern Rockhopper Penguins are found further north.

  • Conservation status: Vulnerable
  • (Northern Rockhopper Penguin: Endangered)

Antarctic Penguins: Conclusion

We hope that you've enjoyed learning about Antarctic Penguins.

King Penguins In Antarctica
A large colony of King Penguins. Notice the young birds at the front of the picture. They are just beginning to lose their juvenile coats.

Now you’ve found out about the penguins in Antarctica, you can discover even more of the region’s incredible wildlife here: Antarctic Animals List.

If you want to find out about the world’s polar regions, take a look at these pages:

  • Discover the frozen oceans and rocky tundra around the North Pole: Arctic Facts.
  • Find out more about the frozen continent at the southernmost part of the world: Antarctic Facts.