Penguins of Antarctica & Sub-Antarctic Islands

Penguins of Antarctica & Sub-Antarctic Islands

Big penguins • Long-tailed penguins • Crested penguins

from AGE ™ Travel Magazine
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How many penguins are there in Antarctica?

Two, five or maybe seven species?

At first glance, the information seems a bit confusing and each source seems to offer a new solution. In the end, everyone is right: there are only two species of penguins that breed on the main part of the Antarctic continent. The Emperor Penguin and the Adelie Penguin. However, there are five species of penguins that breed on Antarctica. Because three more do not occur on the main part of the continent, but on the Antarctic Peninsula. These are the chinstrap penguin, the gentoo penguin and the golden-crested penguin.

In a broader sense, the sub-Antarctic islands are also included in Antarctica. This also includes penguin species that do not breed on the Antarctic continent but nest in sub-Antarctica. These are the king penguin and rockhopper penguin. That's why there are seven species of penguins that live in Antarctica in the broadest sense.

Penguin Species of Antarctica and Sub-Antarctic Islands

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giant penguins

Emperor penguins

The Emperor Penguin (Aptenodytes forsteri) is the largest penguin species in the world and a typical Antarctic resident. He is over a meter tall, weighs a good 30 kg and is perfectly adapted to life in the cold.

Its breeding cycle is particularly unusual: April is the mating season, so the breeding season falls in the middle of the Antarctic winter. The emperor penguin is the only species of penguin that breeds directly on the ice. Throughout the winter, the male penguin partner carries the egg on his feet and warms it with his belly fold. The advantage of this unusual breeding strategy is that the chicks hatch in July, giving them the entire Antarctic summer to grow. The breeding areas of the emperor penguin are up to 200 kilometers from the sea on inland ice or solid sea ice. A brood on thin pack ice is too unsafe, because this melts in the Antarctic summer.

The stock is considered potentially endangered and declining. According to satellite images from 2020, the population is estimated at just over 250.000 breeding pairs, i.e. around half a million adult animals. These are divided into around 60 colonies. Its life and survival is closely tied to the ice.

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king penguins

The king penguin (Aptenodytes patagonicus) belongs to the genus of large penguins and is an inhabitant of the subantarctic. It is the second largest penguin species in the world after the emperor penguin. Almost a meter tall and around 15kg heavy. It breeds in large colonies of thousands upon thousands of penguins, for example on the sub-Antarctic island South Georgia. Only on hunting expeditions in winter does it also travel off the coasts of the Antarctic continent.

King penguins mate in either November or February. Depending on when their last chick fledged. The female lays only one egg. Like the emperor penguin, the egg is hatched on its feet and under an abdominal fold, but the parents take turns incubating. Young king penguins have brown downy plumage. Since the juveniles bear no resemblance to the adult birds, they were mistakenly mistaken for a separate species of penguin. The young kings can only take care of themselves after a year. Because of this, king penguins only have two offspring in three years.

The stock is not considered endangered with a growing population. However, the number of the worldwide stock is unknown according to the Red List. One estimate gives 2,2 million reproductive animals. On the sub-Antarctic island South Georgia about 400.000 breeding pairs live on it.

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long-tailed penguins

Adelie penguins

The Adelie Penguin (Pygoscelis adeliae) belongs to the long-tailed penguins. This genus belongs to the medium-sized penguins with a height of around 70cm and a body weight of around 5kg. Besides the well-known emperor penguin, the Adelie penguin is the only penguin species that inhabits not only the Antarctic Peninsula, but also the main part of the Antarctic continent.

However, unlike the emperor penguin, the Adelie penguin does not breed directly on the ice. Instead, it needs an ice-free shoreline on which to build its nest of small rocks. The female lays two eggs. The male penguin takes over the brood. Although it prefers ice-free areas for breeding, Adelie penguins' lives are closely linked to the ice. He is a real ice lover who doesn't like to be in open water areas, preferring areas with a lot of pack ice.

The stock is not considered endangered with an increasing population. The IUCN Red List indicates a worldwide population of 10 million reproductive animals. However, because the life of this penguin species is closely intertwined with the ice, a retreat in the pack ice could have a negative impact on future population numbers.

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chinstrap penguins

The chinstrap penguin (Pygoscelis Antarctica) is also called a chin-streaked penguin. Its largest breeding colonies are in the South Sandwich Islands and South Shetland Islands. It also breeds on the Antarctic Peninsula.

The chinstrap penguin earns its name from the eye-catching neck markings: a curved black line on a white background, reminiscent of a bridle. Their main food is Antarctic krill. Like all penguins of this genus, this long-tailed penguin builds a nest out of stones and lays two eggs. Chinstrap penguin parents take turns breeding and nest on ice-free stretches of coast. November is the breeding season and when they are only two months old, the gray chicks already swap their down for adult plumage. Chinstrap penguins prefer ice-free breeding sites on rocks and slopes.

The stock is not considered endangered. The IUCN Red List puts the world population at 2020 million adult chinstrap penguins as of 8. However, it is noted that the stock numbers are declining.

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gentoo penguins

Gentoo Penguin (pygoscelis Papua) is sometimes referred to as the red-billed penguin. It breeds on the Antarctic Peninsula and on sub-Antarctic islands. However, the largest gentoo penguin colony nests outside the Antarctic Convergence Zone. It is located in the Falkland Islands.

The Gentoo penguin owes its name to its harsh, penetrating calls. It is the third penguin species within the long-tailed penguin genus. Two eggs and a stone nest are also his greatest assets. It is interesting that the gentoo penguin chicks change their plumage twice. Once from baby down to juvenile plumage at the age of around one month and at the age of four months to adult plumage. The gentoo penguin prefers warmer temperatures, flat nesting areas and is happy about high grass as a hiding place. Its advance into ever more southern areas of the Antarctic Peninsula could be related to global warming.

The IUCN Red List puts the global population for 2019 at just 774.000 adult animals. Nevertheless, the gentoo penguin is not considered endangered, as the population size was classified as stable at the time of the assessment.

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crested penguins

golden crested penguins

The golden crested penguin (Eudyptes chrysolophus) also goes by the funny name macaroni penguin. Its golden-yellow messy hairstyle is the unmistakable trademark of this penguin species. With a height of around 70 cm and a body weight of around 5 kg, it is similar in size to the long-tailed penguin, but belongs to the genus of crested penguins.

The nesting season of golden crested penguins begins in October. They lay two eggs, one large and one small. The small egg is in front of the big one and serves as protection for it. Most golden-crested penguins breed in the sub-Antarctic, for example in Cooper Bay on the sub-Antarctic island South Georgia. There is also a breeding colony on the Antarctic Peninsula. A few golden-crested penguins nest outside the Antarctic Convergence Zone in the Falkland Islands. They like to breed there between rockhopper penguins and sometimes even mate with them.

The IUCN Red List listed the golden crested penguin as Vulnerable in 2020. For 2013, a worldwide stock of around 12 million reproductive animals is given. Population size is declining sharply in many breeding areas. However, exact numbers of current developments are not available.

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Southern rockhopper penguins

The Southern Rockhopper Penguin (Eudyptes chrysocomelistens to the name “Rockhopper” in English. This name refers to the spectacular climbing maneuvers this penguin species performs on their way to their breeding grounds. The southern rockhopper penguin is one of the smaller penguin species with a height of around 50cm and a body weight of around 3,5kg.

The southern rockhopper penguin does not breed in Antarctica, but rather in the sub-Antarctic on sub-Antarctic islands such as the Crozet Islands and the Kerguelen Archipelago. Outside the Antarctic Convergence Zone, it nests in large numbers on the Falkland Islands and in small numbers on Australian and New Zealand islands. Like all crested penguins, it lays one large and one small egg, with the small egg placed in front of the large egg as protection. The rockhopper penguin can rear two chicks more often than the golden-crested penguin. Rockhopper penguins often breed among albatrosses and prefer to return to the same nest every year.

The IUCN Red List puts the southern rockhopper penguin population worldwide at 2020 million adults for 2,5. The population size is decreasing and the penguin species is listed as endangered.

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Animal observation Komodo dragon Binoculars Animal photography Komodo dragons Watching animals Close-ups Animal videos Where can you see penguins in Antarctica?

Main part Antarctic continent: There are large colonies of Adelie penguins along the coasts. Emperor penguins breed inland on ice. Their colonies are therefore more difficult to access and can often only be reached by ship including helicopter.
Antarctic Peninsula: It is the most species-rich area of ​​Antarctica. With an expedition ship, you have the best chance of observing Adelie penguins, chinstrap penguins and gentoo penguins.
Snow Hills Island: This Antarctic island is known for its emperor penguin breeding colony. Helicopter ship trips have a nearly 50 percent chance of reaching the colonies, depending on ice conditions.
South Shetland Islands: Visitors to these sub-Antarctic islands see chinstrap and gentoo penguins. Rarer also Adelie or golden crested penguins.
South Georgia: The sub-Antarctic island is famous for its large colonies of king penguins totaling around 400.000 animals. Golden-crested penguins, gentoo penguins and chinstrap penguins also breed here.
South Sandwich Islands: They are the main breeding ground for chinstrap penguins. Adelie penguins, golden-crested penguins and gentoo penguins also live here.
Kerguelen Archipelago: These sub-Antarctic islands in the Indian Ocean are home to colonies of king penguins, golden-crested penguins and rockhopper penguins.

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Discover more Animal Species of Antarctica with our Antarctic Biodiversity Slideshow.
Tourists can also discover Antarctica on an expedition ship, for example on the Sea Spirit.
Explore the Cold South with the AGE™ Antarctica & South Georgia Travel Guide.

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Enjoy the AGE™ Gallery: Penguin Parade. The character birds of Antarctica

(For a relaxed slide show in full format, simply click on one of the photos)

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Copyrights and Copyright
Most of the wildlife photography in this article was taken by photographers from AGE™ Travel Magazine. Exception: The photo of the emperor penguin was taken by an unknown photographer from Pexels with a CCO license. Southern rockhopper penguin photo by CCO-licensed Jack Salen. Texts and photos are protected by copyright. The copyright of this article in word and image is fully owned by AGE™. All rights reserved. Content for print/online media is licensed upon request.
The contents of the article have been carefully researched and are based on personal experience. However, if information is misleading or incorrect, we assume no liability. AGE™ does not guarantee topicality or completeness.
Source reference for text research
Information on site by the expedition team from Poseidon Expeditions  or on the Cruise ship Sea Spirit, and the Antarctic Handbook presented in 2022, based on information from the British Antarctic Survey, the South Georgia Heritage Trust Organization and the Falkland Islands Government.

BirdLife International (30.06.2022/2020/24.06.2022), The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species XNUMX. Aptenodytes forsteri. & Aptenodytes patagonicus & Pygoscelis adeliae. & Pygoscelis antarcticus. & Pygoscelis papua. & Eudyptes chrysolophus. & Eudyptes chrysocome. [online] Retrieved on XNUMX/XNUMX/XNUMX, from URL: & & & & & &

Salzburger Nachrichten (20.01.2022/27.06.2022/XNUMX), Climate crisis: Gentoo penguins are nesting ever further south. [online] Retrieved on XNUMX/XNUMX/XNUMX, from URL:

Tierpark Hagenbeck (oD), king penguin profile. [online] & Gentoo penguin profile. [online] Retrieved on 23.06.2022/XNUMX/XNUMX, from URL: &

Federal Environment Agency (oD), Animals in the eternal ice - the fauna of the Antarctic. [online] Retrieved on 20.05.2022/XNUMX/XNUMX, from URL:

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