Brief Species Notes
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  Brief Species Notes

On this page you will find a brief description of each of the 17 species of penguin.  If you click on  the species name you will be sent to a page with detailed notes on that species.  Photos of all species may be found by visiting our photo index page.

The common names of 17 species are: Emperor, King, Gentoo, Adelie, Chinstrap, Yellow-eyed, Macaroni, Royal, Erected-crested, Snares, Fiordland, Rockhopper, Magellanic, Humboldt, African, Galapagos and Little.

Emperor penguin - Aptenodytes forsteri

Emperor penguins are one of the two species that are strictly Antarctic. Some Emperors never set foot on dry land; most Emperor rookeries are found on the Antarctic ice shelves, the male penguins incubate the eggs on their feet during the cold Antarctic winter. 

Emperor penguins are rarely held in captivity, they can only be seen in Antarctica, or in the Penguin Encounter at the Sea World park in San Diego.  

King penguin - Aptenodytes patagonicus

King penguins are found on sub-Antarctic islands all around the Southern Ocean. King penguins are kept in many Zoos around the world. Perhaps the most famous collection is in Edinburgh Zoo in Scotland. The penguins there take a stroll around the Zoo every day! 

Adelie penguin - Pygoscelis adeliae

Adelie penguins are the other penguins (besides Emperors) that breed only on the Antarctic continent. Because they live in such a cold climate they are only kept in captivity in a few places (notably the Sea World Parks) 

Chinstrap penguin - Pygoscelis antactica

Chinstrap penguins breed on Antarctic and sub - Antarctic Islands - they are particularly noisy penguins and are sometimes also called Stonecracker penguins because of their piercing voices. 

Gentoo penguin - Pygoscelis papua

Gentoo penguins breed on sub-Antarctic Islands all round the southern Ocean. They are easily recognizable by the white bonnet on their heads. 

Macaroni penguin - Eudyptes chrysolophus 

Macaroni penguins are the largest of the six species of crested penguins. They breed on sub - Antarctic Islands south of Africa and America. They are kept in many Zoos throughout the world. 

Royal penguin - Eudyptes schegeli

Royal penguins are sometimes regarded as a sub-species of Macaroni penguins with a white throat. They are only found on Macquarie Island south of Australia. As far as we know there are no Royal penguins in captivity so you will have to go to Macquarie to see them. It is well worth the trip! 

Erect-crested penguin - Eudyptes sclateri

Erect-crested penguins are found on several sub - Antarctic islands south of New Zealand. To see these penguins you will have to take a cruise around these islands. 

Snares penguin - Eudyptes robustus

Snares penguins are only found, as their name suggests, on the Snares Islands, which are some 300 miles south of New Zealand and are a protected Nature Reserve. (Photo courtesy of Gerrit Kramer) 

Fiordland penguin - Eudyptes pachyrhynchus

Fiordland penguins are found among the fiords that make up the South West coast of New Zealand's South Island and on Stewart Island (just south of New Zealand). Their habitat is greatly threatened by the increasing presence of man in what is one of the world's last remaining wildernesses. They are further threatened by the many predators that man has accidentally (or deliberately) introduced to New Zealand over the last few centuries. 

Rockhopper penguin - Eudyptes chrysocome

Rockhopper penguins are perhaps the commonest of the crested penguins. These small penguins are found on islands throughout the Southern Ocean. They are commonly kept in Zoos as well. 

African penguin - Spheniscus demersus 

African (or Blackfooted, or Jackass) penguins are found around the southern coast of South Africa. The African penguins suffer from oil spillages from ships passing around the Cape. African penguins are very often seen in zoos. The African penguin enclosure at London Zoo is listed as being a building of special architectural merit, due to the unique use of pre-stressed concrete in its construction. African penguins can easily be seen at Boulders Beach . There is even an excellent guesthouse where you can stay in luxurious rooms and watch and listen to the penguins from your bed. We spent our last two wedding anniversaries there - strongly recommended! 

Humboldt penguin - Spheniscus humboldti

Humboldt penguins are found on the Peruvian coast of South America. They are widely regarded as the most endangered of all the penguin species. There are several captive breeding colonies of Humboldt penguins in zoos around the world. 

Magellanic penguin - Spheniscus magellanicus

Magellanic penguins are also found around the coast of South America and on some South Atlantic islands. They are widely displayed in zoos in North America. 

Galapagos penguin - Spheniscus mendiculus

Galapagos penguins live on the equator, they are the most northerly of all the penguins. (Photo courtesy of Blossom Gervacio)

Yellow-eyed penguin - Megadyptes antipodes 


Yellow-eyed penguins come from New Zealand's South Island and from several sub-Antarctic islands to the south of New Zealand. On the New Zealand mainland, their habitat is disappearing at an alarming rate. A special society, the Yellow-eyed Penguin Trust, has been set up to protect their environment. Dave Houston has an excellent site on Yellow-eyed penguins in New Zealand 

Little penguin - Eudyptula minor 


Little penguins (or Fairy penguins) are found on the south coast of Australia and Tasmania (and a number of other Australian Islands) and on New Zealand and the Chatham Islands. Many people have argued that the Little penguins should be considered to consist of at least 2 distinct species, the Little Blue and the White Flippered penguins. Other people suggest there are a number of sub-species of the Little penguin including the Chatham Islands and the Cook Strait penguins. However, recent DNA based research suggests there is just one species divided into two sub-species (see our main Little penguin page for details).

 Dave Houston has an excellent site on Little penguins in New Zealand