– Written by Victoria Philpott
Frozen Planet and Happy Feet 2 made me very happy. Watching the penguins waddle their way across the tundra to their cute, fluffy chicks and then dive into the water to fish is incredible. Sometimes they seem so human, did you see the Frozen Planet episode where the Adelie Penguin stole the nesting rocks from the other penguin? Amazing.
A few penguin facts for you…
- Penguins can jump up to six feet out of the water and into the air, this is called ‘porpoising’ (see vid).
- They’re also the fastest swimming and deepest diving of all birds, and can swim up to 20mph.
- The colouring of penguins helps to protect them against predators from above and below.
- Some penguins can actually walk faster than humans.
Where can I see penguins?
Unfortunately, Antarctica is where most of them hang out. And The Salisbury Island in Georgia is more suited to scientists, Arctic explorers and millionaires than us budget travellers. That doesn’t mean you have to give up your dreams of seeing penguin in the wild though, here are some alternative places where you can see different penguin species’ in the wild, and I’ve also included a penguin picture guide to help you identify them…
The Falkland Islands, South America: Here you’ll find the largest concentration of Rockhopper Penguins in the world. You’re guaranteed to see them waddling along here. It’s also possible to see Macaroni Penguins here too, as well as Gentoos, Magellenics and King Penguins.
Isla Choros or Pan de Azucar, Chile: The best way to see Humboldt Penguins is to ask the local fishermen around Isla Choros or Pan de Azucar to give you a lift to their islands. The fishermen will know the right ones, but by law they can’t actually leave you there it’s still possible to get good views of the penguins on the landing sites and in the water.
Punta Arenas, Chile: Here you can catch a boat to an island in the Straits of Magellan where you’ll find a large colony of the Magellanic penguins.
Isla Magdalena, Chile: More than 100,000 Magellanic Penguins live here. Catch the ferry from Punta Arenas and in one hour you’ll be dropped off for a good 90-minute visit with the penguins. Follow the marked path through the penguin nests and up to the island’s lighthouse for an incredible view over the colony.
Galápagos Islands, Ecuador: Of course, the Galápagos Islands are home to the Galápagos penguin. The penguins are the most northern of all the penguin species and the fact the look and act the same as the penguins from colder climes is incredible when you think they live on the equator. The Isabela island gives a great viewpoint as does the west coast of Fernandina island.
Philip Island, Australia: Just a 90-minute drive from Melbourne you’ll find the Philip Island Nature Park. You can observe the nightly Penguin Parade here, when over 1,000 cute, Little Penguins, also known as Fairy Penguins, return to shore.
Namibia, South Africa: This is the only home of the Jackass Penguin. To be more precise try the Boulder’s Beach in Simon’s Town where wooden walkways lead you directly into the penguin beach. Rockhoppers and King Penguins have also been seen here.
South Island, New Zealand:There are a few popular penguin hang outs here. At the Otago Peninsula you can watch the Yellow-Eyed Penguins, or in Maori ‘Hoiho’, go about their business from hides, trenches and tunnels. The Stewart, Auckland and Campbell Islands also offer some likely opportunities for catching a view of the birds. In New Zealand you can also see the White-Flippered Penguins on Banks Peninsula on the east coast of the South Island.
Isla Ballestas, Peru: The best way to see Humboldt Penguins in Peru is via a boat trip around Isla Ballestas.
It’s estimated there are more than 100 million penguins in the world, and 18 penguin species:
1. Emperor Penguin
Antarctica is the only place where you’ll find the famous Emperor Penguin. The male Emperor incubates the egg on his feet and keeps it warm with a flap of skin called a brood pouch – he does this for two months in the winter living off his fat reserves while the female is at sea. The female Emperor returns shortly after the chicks hatch and takes over the child rearing while the males hunt. An Emperor Penguin can grow to up to four feet.
2. King Penguin
King Penguins are the second largest penguin at around 11-16kg. You’ll find an estimated 4.5million of them in the north of the subantarctic islands Antarctica, South Georgia. They have four layers of feathers to keep warm with 70 feathers per every square inch. King Penguins choose one partner and stick with them forever, well at least until one of them dies anyway.
3. Rockhopper Penguin
So called because they jump out the water and belly flop on the rocks Rockhopper penguins are one of the smaller penguin species at around 20 inches tall and 2-3kg. They might be small but they have a very loud cry and can dive to 330 feet.
4. Adelie Penguin
If you watched Frozen Planet you will have seen the Adelie Penguins fighting over the rocks for nests. This is common among this species. Adelie Penguins are very playful and lover sliding down icy hills on their bellies and projecting out the water like in the video above.
5. Chinstrap Penguin
No prizes for working out why these penguins are known as Chinstraps. This Penguin species doesn’t like going to far to forage for dinner – their dives usually last no more than one minute and they don’t like to go further than 200ft down. Chinstrap Penguins are also known as Ringed Penguins, Bearded Penguins or Stonecracker Penguin. Chinstrap Penguins are the boldest and most aggressive penguin species.
6. Macaroni Penguin
There are more Macaroni penguins in the world than any other penguin species. They’re often confused with Royal Penguins, but they’re noisy, aggressive birds who emit raucous braying sounds on land and short barks at sea. Lovelace in Happy Feet is a Macaroni Penguin.
7. Fairy Penguin / Little Blue Penguin
Little Blue Penguins, or Fairy Penguins as they’re known in Australia, are the smallest of all the penguin species at just 16 inches and 2 pounds. Little Blue Penguins are horny little beasties and unlike other penguins enjoy breeding throughout the year. Another defining characteristic is their tendency to dig burrows as nests rather than build them.
8. African Penguin / Jackass Penguin
African Penguins are cool! They’re the only ones to brave the heat of the equator to set up home and they make donkey-like braying sounds to communicate. Oh actually, can I take the ‘cool’ back, just found out they nest in burrows made out of their own excrement, renamed as guano. Ewwwww.
9. Gentoo Penguin
Love this picture. I imagine she’s a beautiful penguin emerging from the waters with all her admirers lined up on the beach just desperate to mate with the penguin beauty. Gentoo penguins’ white head stripe and bright orange bill ensures they stand out from the penguin crowd. They’re the fastest penguin species of all.
10. Magellanic Penguin
These South American penguins have been seen as far north as Rio de Janeiro, but their usual habitat is in coastal Argentina, Chile, and the Falkland Islands. Magellanic Penguins mate with the same partner year in year out. The male reclaims his burrow every year and sits and waits for his female partner to answer his call. Not his phone call, his call in the wild.
11. Galapagos Penguin
Possibly the sweetest thing I’ve ever heard in the animal world: Galapagos Penguins have been seen holding their flippers over their feet when they walk on land to stop the sunlight from burning their poor, sensitive feet. They also sleep with their flippers outward to prevent the heat escaping from their bodies. There are less than 1,600 Galapagos Penguins left in the world.
12. Yellow-Eyed Penguin
Aw, this little guy looks like he’s got the weight of the world on his shoulders. Maybe he’s just realised that his penguin species is endangered – there are currently only 4,840 Yellow-Eyed Penguins left in the world. Despite their super-shrill call, they’re an easy target for predators and the population is dwindling.
13. Humboldt / Peruvian Penguin
The Humboldt Penguin breeds in coastal Peru and Chile and is another penguin species who likes to burrow holes in his own excrement. Here’s a lovely story: In 2009 at a zoo in Germany two adult male Humboldt penguins adopted an abandoned penguin egg. After the egg hatched, the two male penguins raised, protected, cared for, and fed the chick in the same manner that a male and female penguin would.
14. Royal Penguin
There are currently around 850,000 pairs of Royal Penguins, the largest colony is found at Hurd Point in Antarctica. Royal Penguins build their nest by making a shallow hole in the sand before lining it with plants and stones. Then the female will lay two eggs, but it’s unusual for them both to survive. Both parents take it in 12-day shifts to keep the egg warm before it hatches at around 35 days.
15. Fiordland-Crested Penguin
Fiordland-crested penguins spend so much time at sea they occasionally grow barnacles on their tails. They’re not as social as other penguin species and it’s usual for them to form loose colonies with sparsely distributed nesting sites.
16. Erect-Crested Penguin
These penguins from New Zealand remain a tad elusive to scientists and explorers – not much is known about them, but the Erect-Crested Penguin’s population is currently in decline. Like most penguins their favourite food is krill and squid.
17. Snares Island Penguin
Uh oo, looks like the little Snares Island penguin has been getting up to mischief. They live on Snares Island in New Zealand and they’re fiercely protected by the New Zeland authorities. No humans are allowed near their breeding grounds and may only photograph them with special permission.
18. White-Flippered Penguin
One of the smallest and most endangered penguin species the White-Flippered Penguin lives in New Zealand and breeds only on Banks Peninsula and Motunau Island. The most recent estimate of the total population is only 2,200 pairs.
Cute penguin chicks
In Central Park Zoo in New York they’ve hand reared some penguins, and the penguin chicks have even got a blog: The Real Chicks of Central Park. Check out this video of them just a few days old, the cutest bit is at the end…
Thanks to Martin Kolesar, Liam Q, Robbo45 terranature, Chadica, Graham Racher, Renewableplanet, chrispearson, aresauburnphotos, Robert Cave, dfaulder, lightmatter, Shimgray, OKbutton, iffy, photovolcanica for the incredible images from Flickr. Please note all images were used under the Creative Commons License at the time of posting.