The 18 Types of Penguins in the World! (ID Guide)

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What are the different kinds of penguins?

types of penguins

It’s easy to see why people are fascinated with penguins. Besides their adorable looks, these birds are unlike any other in the world! 

They’re flightless birds that love to swim, they stand upright instead of hunched over, and almost all of them live in the southern hemisphere. 

Keep reading to learn about EVERY type of penguin that lives on the planet, including photos and range maps!


#1. Magellanic Penguin

types of penguins

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults are 61–76 cm (24–30 in) tall and weigh 2.7 and 6.5 kg (6.0-14.3 lb). 
  • In males, the coloring is black on the back, with a white abdomen and two black bands between the head and the breast. Females and young have a similar pattern in more muted grays.
  • These penguins have rigid, flipper-like wings used to swim underwater.

This species is one of the most recognizable types of penguins!

With their bold black and white markings, distinctive bills, and reddish skin around the eyes, you won’t have any trouble spotting this penguin along the coasts of South America!

Magellanic Penguins are found in coastal South America from Brazil to Chile and on the Falkland Islands.

These amazing birds are a social species known to travel in large groups while hunting for food. Magellanic Penguins routinely dive to depths of 20-50 m (66-164 ft), where they find their prey. They mostly feed on squid, krill, cuttlefish, and other crustaceans.

When the breeding season comes, Magellanic Penguins group in large nesting colonies along southern coasts. They lay eggs in warm places where the temperature is over 20 °c (68 °f). As is typical with most penguins, the male and the female parents take turns leaving the nest to feed.

Magellanic Penguins face threats like oil spills, predators, and climate change. But luckily, at the moment, these penguins are plentiful and are considered a species of Least Concern by the IUCN.

  • Estimated Global Population: 1.5 million breeding pairs

#2. Little Penguin

Also known as Little Blue Penguins.

types of penguins

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults are 30-33 cm (12-13 in) tall and weigh about 1.5kg (3.3 lb).
  • The head and back are blue, and the underside is white from chin to belly.
  • Their feet are pink with black soles and webbing.

Little Penguins are the only nocturnal penguin in the world!

They prefer to complete all their activities at night, including hunting, moving, and socializing. Then, during the day, they rest in groups to protect themselves from predators.

Little Penguins live on the southern coast of Australia and throughout coastal New Zealand.

Little Penguins dive as deep as 80 m (265 ft) to find their preferred food, which includes krill, fish, and squid. However, they can only stay underwater for two minutes, which is short compared to other types of penguins. They also swim and walk along the shore in groups, an effective strategy to avoid predators.

Amazingly, Little Penguins have up to nine sounds they use to communicate with their colony. The sounds include sharp barking that announces it’s time to hunt and loud yelps, which signal trouble. Listen to a few sounds below!

Although Little Penguins do face an increased threat from introduced predators, they aren’t currently in danger of decline. They’re a species of Least Concern, meaning their populations are stable and healthy.

  • Estimated Global Population: 1.2 million individual penguins

#3. African Penguin

types of penguins

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults are 60–70 cm (24–28 in) tall and weigh 2.2–3.5 kg (4.9–7.7 lb).
  • Their coloring is mostly black, with a white belly and stripes on the sides of the face. They have black spots on their bellies, which are unique to each individual. 
  • They have smooth and aerodynamic bodies with flipper-like wings. 
  • This species is easy to spot because of the pink patches of skin above its eyes.

This is the only penguin in the world that lives in Africa!

The African Penguin lives primarily on islands off the southwestern coast. In fact, the islands where they live are often called the Penguin Islands!

African Penguins are found in coastal South Africa and Namibia.

This species actively hunts in the open ocean, where they feed mostly on sardines and anchovies. These birds are hungry! Adult African Penguins consume up to 540 grams (1.19 lb) of prey daily.

African Penguins are monogamous and return to the same place to breed each year. Once their eggs are laid, both parents take turns incubating them while the other hunts.

Unfortunately, African Penguins are an endangered species due to the many threats against their population. Collection and sale of their eggs, competition for fish from fisheries, and climate change all affect their population. One of their biggest threats is oil spills. At least four major oil spills in recent history have happened in the African Penguins’ native range, causing huge declines each time.

  • Estimated Global Population: 14,700 breeding pairs

#4. Gentoo Penguin

types of penguins

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults are 51 to 90 cm (20-35 in) tall and weigh 4.5-8.5 kg (10-19 lbs).
  • This species has a wide, white stripe that looks like a bonnet across the top of its head. The beak is bright reddish-orange.
  • Their feet are webbed, and they have elongated tails.

This species is one of the largest penguins in the world.

Gentoo Penguins have adapted to extremely cold and harsh climates, and one of the ways they stay warm is with extra body weight. They are also the fastest underwater swimmer of all known penguin species, with a top speed of 36 kph (22 mph). 

Gentoo Penguins live in coastal Argentina, the Antarctic Peninsula, and Southern Ocean islands from the Falkland Islands to Macquarie Island.

Even though they are one the largest penguins in the world, Gentoo Penguins are susceptible to predators. Sea lions, killer whales, and leopard seals are particularly dangerous. They’re much safer on land! Despite these dangers, the Gentoo Penguin population is stable, and they are a species of Least Concern.

  • Estimated Global Population: 775,000 individual penguins

Gentoo Penguins have various sounds they use to communicate in their colonies, but the most famous one is a loud trumpeting emitted as the bird throws its head back. LISTEN BELOW!


#5. Galápagos Penguin

types of penguins

Identifying Characteristics:

  •  Adults are 49–50 cm (19–20 in) tall and weigh 2.5–4.5 kg (5.5–9.9 lb).
  • They have a black upper body and head with a white stripe from behind the eyes to under the chin. The belly is white with a black ring outlined in white.
  • Their beaks are black on the top and pink on the bottom.

Galápagos Penguins are the ONLY penguins that live NORTH of the equator!

Galápagos Penguins are found on the Galapágos Islands of Ecuador.

As their name suggests, this species is native to the Galápagos Islands. They hunt in cold ocean waters by day, relying on the current to bring food near their breeding sites. They return to land to roost at night.

 

The Galápagos Penguins are currently an endangered species. However, there is hope for this amazing species! They’re currently experiencing a baby boom, and with conservation efforts underway, we may see their population rebound.  Read more about the reasons for the baby boom, which include less tourism and increased food supply, here.

  • Estimated Global Population: 2,000 individual penguins

#6. King Penguin

types of penguins

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults are 70-100 cm (28-39 in) tall and weigh 9.3-18 kg (21-40 lb).
  • Its coloring is dark on the back, wings, and legs, with bright yellow-orange plumage at the top of its chest and around each eye. The belly is white.
  • The wings are large and flipper-like, and the beak is long and straight.

The King Penguin is the second largest penguin in the world.

Many people confuse them with the largest species, the Emperor Penguin, because they appear somewhat similar.

King Penguins live throughout the Southern Ocean, with sightings in South America, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and various islands.

These athletic penguins are impressive in the water! They can swim at 6.5–10 kph (4–6 mph) and dive to depths of 100-300 m (350-1000 ft). In addition, they can stay underwater for up to five minutes.

Even though they’re agile swimmers, King Penguins must be vigilant because they’re a favorite food for many sea mammals. In particular, sea lions will chase these penguins right onto the beach!

Like many types of penguins, King Penguins are susceptible to loss of habitat because of climate change. Even though they are currently a species of Least Concern on the IUCN Red List, their population is expected to decline by up to 70% in the next eighty years.

  • Estimated Global Population: Between 2 and 3 million breeding pairs

#7. Humboldt Penguin

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults are 56-70 cm (22-28 in) tall and weigh 2.9-6 kg (6.4-13.2 lb).
  • They have a black head and a white marking that goes from behind the eye and chin to join at the throat.
  • The upper parts are black or dark grey, while the abdomens are white, with a black breast-band.

Humboldt Penguins are incredibly outgoing!

This species is popular in zoos because of its boisterous, excitable nature. They’re often seen crowding around zookeepers, trying to be first in line for a treat!

In the wild, Humboldt Penguins like to build their nests on rocky coasts, where they burrow holes into crevices. Interestingly, they often live in harmony with Magellanic penguins.

Humboldt Penguins are found along the west coast of South America in Chile, Peru, and Ecuador.

These penguins have excellent eyesight, which is their main hunting tool. They can track fast-moving schools of ocean fish like sardines and anchovies, then dive up to 54 m (177 ft) to catch them.

Unfortunately, Humboldt Penguins face more threats to their existence than many other types of penguins. First, they have to contend with predators and invasive species. Additionally, these birds are particularly sensitive to human disturbance, climate change, competition from fisheries, and industrial development. All these factors combined have caused the Humboldt Penguin’s population status to be listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List.

  • Estimated Global Population: 12,000 breeding pairs

#8. Adélie Penguin

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults are 70 – 73 cm (28-29 in) tall and weigh 3.8-8.2 kg (8.4-18.1 lbs).
  •  The head and neck of the Adélie Penguin have black upper parts with white underparts. The Adélie Penguin has a distinguishing eye ring around a black iris. The beak is covered with black feathers. 
  • The upper part of the wings is black, while the underside is much lighter or white with a small black tip. The feet are pinkish with no feathers. Females have shorter wings and beaks than males.

Adélie Penguins live only in Antarctica and some of the surrounding islands. They have the largest range of any penguin species. They’re also one of the most numerous types of penguins!

Adélie Penguins live on the coastlines surrounding Antarctica.

This species is one of four penguin species that nest in Antarctica. They have a ton of fascinating adaptations that help them survive the extreme cold! For example, they have a thick layer of fat under their skin to insulate them. In addition, they live in large communities along the coasts, congregating around areas with lots of food. 

One habit that helps them survive also makes them seem a bit heartless! Before diving into a new hunting area, the penguins push one of their fellows in and then wait to see if that penguin comes back up. The others follow as long as it’s safe, entering the water from the same spot.

This species is one of the few types of penguins whose population is actually increasing! It has a large, unfragmented range and very little competition for food. As a result, the IUCN Red List classifies the Adelie Penguin as a species of Least Concern.

  • Estimated Global Population: Some estimates say up to 10 million individuals!

#9. Yellow-eyed Penguin

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults are 62–79 cm (24–31 in) tall and weigh 3–8.5 kg (6.6–18.7 lb).
  • A band of pale yellow feathers covers the eyes and encircles the back of its head. The forehead and sides of the head are light brown, while the tail and back are navy blue or black. The abdomen, chest, thighs, and underside of the flippers are white.
  • As its name suggests, this penguin’s eyes are yellow.

This species is the rarest penguin in the world!

The estimated worldwide population of Yellow-eyed Penguins is only about 4,000 birds. Unfortunately, they are susceptible to bacterial infections that kill hatchlings and chicks. As a result of these infections, small range, and other threats, Yellow-eyed Penguins are listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List.

Yellow-eyed Penguins are found in coastal New Zealand and on Auckland and Campbell Islands.

Unlike other species, Yellow-eyed Penguins are very private and prefer to nest in seclusion. They are almost always silent, only making a shrill call to warn others away from their breeding sites.


#10. Chinstrap Penguin

Also known as the Ringed Penguin, Bearded Penguin, and Stone Cracker Penguin.

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults are 68–76 cm (27-30 in) tall and weigh 3.2–5.3 kg (7.1–11.7 lb).
  • They are white on the abdomen, chin, throat, and face, while the back is black.
  • Their short bills are black, and their feet are pink.

These are the most aggressive type of penguins!

Chinstrap Penguins are known for their ill tempers, but it’s easy to see why when you consider their life story.

For one thing, their main predator, the leopard seal, constantly hunts them, so they need to be tough and cautious!

Chinstrap Penguins live in the Southern Ocean, with sightings in coastal South America and the Antarctic Peninsula.

Additionally, Chinstrap Penguins spend most of their time swimming in freezing water. They will swim up to 80 km (50 mi) offshore daily in search of small fish, krill, shrimp, and squid to eat. Talk about a rough life!

Although they have to contend with more challenges than other types of penguins, the Chinstrap Penguins’ population remains stable at around eight million individuals. They are a species of Least Concern on the IUCN Red List.


#11. Southern Rockhopper Penguin

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults are 45–58 cm (18–23 in) tall and weigh 2–3.4 kg (4.4–7.5 lb).
  • Look for their straight, bright yellow eyebrows finishing in yellow plumes over a red eye.
  • The upper part of its body is solid gray, and the belly is white.

Southern Rockhoppers are the showiest penguins in the world.

Just look at that yellow eyebrow and crown of feathers on its head. This species is ready for a party! 🙂

And its looks aren’t the only thing that sets the Southern Rockhopper apart. Many penguins avoid obstacles by sliding on their bellies or climbing using their flippers. However, this species jumps across cracks and boulders instead.

There are two subspecies of Southern Rockhopper Penguin. The western subspecies lives on the southern coast of South America, and the eastern subspecies lives on the southern coast of Australia.

These adaptable penguins also have complex hunting behaviors. They can travel in groups up to 57 km (35 mi) away from their colonies. They hunt for between 12 and 15 hours at a time, leaving the colony around dawn and returning at dusk.

It shouldn’t be surprising that Rockhopper Penguins are highly recognizable because of their looks. In addition, their breeding grounds are also popular tourist destinations!

Unfortunately, Rockhopper Penguins are also considered vulnerable to extinction because of their recent population decline. The threats against these penguins include competition from commercial fisheries and oil spills. However, several zoo breeding programs are leading efforts to help the species thrive.

  • Estimated Global Population: 1 million breeding pairs

#12. Fiordland Penguin

Also known as the Fiordland Crested Penguin or the New Zealand Crested Penguin.

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults reach 60 cm (24 in) tall and weigh 2-5.95 kg (4.4-13.1 lb).
  • Their coloring is bluish-grey with a darker head and white abdomen.
  • They have broad yellow “eyebrows” that extend over the eyes and down the neck.

The population of Fiordland Penguins is rapidly declining.

The main detriment to their numbers is introduced species in New Zealand like cats, dogs, and rats, which prey on adults and chicks. Unfortunately, human disturbance, habitat destruction, and pollution also play a role. Due to their small range and population, they are vulnerable to extinction, and their status on the IUCN Red List is Near Threatened.

Fiordland Penguins are found along the southwestern coast of New Zealand.

In addition to these threats, the reproductive habits of Fiordland Penguins don’t help its declining numbers. Although they build nests in protected and covered areas, their eggs and chicks are still very vulnerable to predators. Two eggs are laid, one bigger and one smaller. The smaller egg usually doesn’t hatch successfully.

And even if it does hatch, the mortality of that chick is much higher. The smaller chick usually dies because it can’t compete for food with its larger, healthier sibling.

  • Estimated Global Population: Less than 2,000 individuals

#13. Emperor Penguin

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults are about 100 cm (39 in) tall and weigh 22-45 kg (49-99 lb).
  • They have black feathers and plumage on the head and back, white on their bellies, pale-yellow breasts and neck, and bright yellow ears.
  • Juveniles are gray and fluffy. 

Emperor Penguins are the heaviest penguins in the world.

And this isn’t the only thing that makes this species unique! Everything from its hunting style to breeding habits is unusual and incredible. 

First, when they hunt, they can stay underwater for up to 20 minutes and dive as deep as 535 m (1,755 ft). Emperor Penguins have specialized blood cells that allow them to function at low oxygen levels. They can also slow down their metabolism by shutting down non-essential organs. Finally, their bones are unusually hard and solid to protect them from pressure changes. 

Emperor Penguins live on the coastlines surrounding Antarctica.

Emperor Penguins are the only species that breed during Antarctic WINTERS. They travel 50-120 km (31-75 mi) over ice to their breeding colonies, made up of several thousand individuals. 

Males incubate a single egg while the females return to the sea to feed. The male Emperor Penguin needs to withstand the harsh Antarctic winter during this time without eating anything. They lose around 12 kg (26 lb) in the process. After the egg is hatched, both parents take turns foraging at sea for food and caring for their chick in the colony.

Although Emperor Penguins can walk with a wobbling gait, they’re better known for tobogganing. This adorable (and efficient) habit is when they throw themselves down and slide over the ice on their bellies.

Emperor Penguins are Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List. Declining food resources due to climate change is the leading cause of its population decline. Unfortunately, these threats cause twofold harm to the population. First, they cause reproductive issues and breeding failure, followed by the abnormal deaths of adult birds. Some colonies have lost up to 50% of their previous numbers.

  • Estimated Global Population: 600,000 adult Emperor Penguins

#14. Macaroni Penguin

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults are about 70 cm (28 in) long and weigh around 5.5 kg (12 lb).
  • Their coloring is black above and on the face with a sharp line that distinguishes the white underparts and belly.
  • They have prominent yellow or orange crests above the eyes, and their legs and feet are pink. 

The Macaroni Penguin is one of the six species of crested penguins in the world. Their colonies are some of the largest, with around 100,000 individuals in some of them. Despite these numbers, there has been a decline in their population, so their current conservation status is classified as vulnerable. 

Macaroni Penguins inhabit the Southern Ocean and have breeding colonies in South America, the Antarctic Peninsula, and various islands.

The diet of the Macaroni Penguin mainly consists of crustaceans like krill, small fish, and cephalopods. They eat more marine life per year than any other seabird! Unfortunately, they have numerous predators in the water, including the leopard seal, orcas, and giant petrels. 

  • Estimated Global Population: 18 million individuals

#15. Snares Penguin

Also known as the Snares Crested Penguin or Snares Islands Penguin. 

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults are 50-70 cm (20-28 in) long and weigh 2.5-4 kg (5.5-6.8 lb). 
  • Their coloring is dark blue or black on the upper parts of the body and white underneath.
  • They have a bright yellow crest above the eyes and a brownish-red bill.

The Snares Penguin is named for its breeding place – the Snares Islands in southern New Zealand. Almost all the research on this species was done here, but they have also been spotted in southern Australia, Tasmania, the Chatham Islands, and southern New Zealand. 

Snares Penguins live and breed exclusively on Snares Island to the south of New Zealand.

Snares Penguins eat krill, small fish, and cephalopods. They also have several natural predators, including leopard seals and sea lions. In addition, the eggs and chicks are vulnerable to petrels and skuas, native seabirds in the area. 

Like other types of penguins, Snares Penguin parents take turns incubating their eggs while the other parent goes out to forage for food. First, the male takes a trip, then he comes back and lets the female go hunt. The eggs are ready to hatch as the mother returns, and the parents share the responsibility of raising their young. 

Unfortunately, Snares Penguins are considered a Vulnerable Species on the IUCN Red List. This is due to their relatively small range, which makes them susceptible to single threats like an oil spill or reduction in food resources. 

  • Estimated Global Population: 25,000 breeding pairs

#16. Royal Penguin

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults are 65–76 cm (26–30 in) tall and weigh 3–8 kg (6.6–17.6 lb).
  • They have black and dark gray backs, heads, and wings.
  • Their faces and chins are white, with yellow eyebrows and large orange beaks.

The Royal Penguin is a social species, so they often cohabitate with other colonies, especially while hunting. This behavior helps to eliminate competition for resources and offers protection from predators. They eat krill, small fish, and squid.

Royal Penguins are found almost exclusively on Macquarie Island in the Southern Ocean.

These penguins have an unusual breeding habit that experts can’t explain. The female lays two eggs but almost always abandons the first egg a day before the second egg arrives, reducing the chances of the first one hatching. The chosen egg is kept warm by both parents.

After hatching, the male takes care of the chicks for two to three weeks while the female hunts. If the female doesn’t return with food, the chick usually doesn’t survive.

Royal Penguins are considered a vulnerable species due to habitat loss, climate change, and predation. In the past, this species was hunted for its oil, which caused a drop in population.

  • Estimated Global Population: 850,000 breeding pairs

#17. Erect-crested Penguin

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults are 50-70 cm (20-28 in) tall and weigh 2.5-6 kg (5.5-13.2 lbs).
  • Their coloring is bluish-black on top with white underparts.
  • A large, bright yellow stripe on the head extends over the eye to form a brush-like crest.

Erect-crested Penguins are the least-studied penguins in the world. However, we do know some information about their hunting and breeding habits.

For example, this species commonly scrapes krill off the underside of the ice. Although they don’t have teeth, these penguins have a sharp blade-like bill to help with the task. They also eat squid and small fish.

Erect-crested Penguins live on the eastern coast of New Zealand and the surrounding islands.

Erect-crested Penguins have very specific breeding habits that sometimes hurt their survival chances. They nest in rocky terrain, often on precarious ledges. Unfortunately, the eggs can roll out of the nest easily. Increased fighting and low breeding success also hurt this species’ population.

As you might expect, Erect-crested Penguins are endangered. Their population has drastically declined over the last 30 years, and their breeding range is limited only to two locations.

  • Estimated Global Population: 30,000 breeding pairs

#18. Moseley’s Rockhopper Penguin

Also known as the Northern Rockhopper Penguin or Moseley’s penguin.

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults grow to 55 cm (22 in) and weigh about 2.4 kg (5.3 lb).
  • Their coloring is black above with white underparts and a messy, bushy yellow crest. 

Moseley’s Rockhopper Penguins are commonly found on shorelines. They prefer to make burrows and nests in high grasses known as tussocks.

Moseley’s Rockhopper Penguins inhabit the Southern Ocean and breed on various islands.

They eat mostly krill, crustaceans, squid, octopus, and fish.

This penguin is classified as an endangered species. In the last 30 years, its population has decreased as it suffers from the effects of climate change, overhunting by humans, and oil pollution in the sea.

  • Estimated Global Population: 200,000 breeding pairs

Do you want to know more about penguins in the world?


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