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Meet all 6 Antarctic Penguin Species

by Holly Chavez Blog

It is estimated that there are 20 million breeding pairs of penguins living in the Antarctic region. Due to this high population, it is common for there to be up to 19 penguins within every square meter during the winter time. This makes it extremely easy to spot them during winter expeditions.
Antarctic Peninsula

In total, there are 17 penguin species, but only six of them reside in the Antarctic on a permanent basis. Of these six, there are two that actually claim the continent of Antarctica as their homeland: Emperors and Adélies. Three other species prefer to do their breeding on the most northern section of the Antarctic Peninsula: Chinstraps, Macaronis and Gentoos. Meanwhile, King penguins stick to the northern Sub-Antarctic islands where the temperature stays warmer throughout the year. The rest of the penguin species spend the majority of their lives in the cooler areas of the Southern Hemisphere, with the interesting exception of the Galapagos penguin, which lives on the equator.

Oceanwide expedition participants who are interested in seeing penguins in their natural habitat will want to schedule an Antarctic cruise. However, it is a good idea to familiarize yourself with each of the region’s six penguins in advance so that you can have a better appreciation of the overall experience. To assist you with this goal, we have put together a list of some basic facts about each of the penguin species that you may be able to see from the boat.

The Six Antarctic Penguin Species:

1. EmperorsEmperor penguins are among the most popular with expedition participants. Once they reach adulthood, they have an approximate height of 115 cm and a weight of 38 kg. Emperors live on a diet of crustaceans, squid and fish, and they are usually found in the Ross Sea and Weddell regions. This is the only bird species in the entire Antarctic that breeds during the winter. The baby chicks are born between the end of July and the middle of August, but they are unable to explore the sea alone until January. 

© Douglas Newson | Oceanwide Expeditions

2. Adélie – This penguin species typically weighs 5.3 kg and reaches a height of 71 cm. There are 2.5 million pairs of Adélie penguins in the Antarctic region, and their preferred food is krill and fish. Their babies are usually born in early to mid-December, and the chicks are able to be left alone for short periods of time by their third week of life.

© Jan Veen | Oceanwide Expeditions

3. Chinstrap – With 7 million pairs of Chinstrap penguins in the area, it is not surprising when one of these penguins is spotted from the expedition ship. Adult Chinstrap penguins have an average height of 71 cm and weigh 5 kg. They usually eat fish and krill. Chinstrap penguins typically have two chicks per mating season, and they are born between late February and early March.

© Oceanwide Expeditions

4. Macaroni – These Sub-Antarctic island dwellers have an estimated population of 12 million pairs. The adult Macaroni penguins and Chinstrap penguins are virtually identical in terms of height and weight as each usually reaches 71 cm and 5 kg. Their main diet consists of fish, krill and squid. The baby chicks grow enough within 10 weeks to leave their parents behind and integrate into the adult population.

© Oceanwide Expeditions

5. King – King penguins are the second largest Antarctic penguin species. Once they reach full maturity, they will weigh approximately 16 kg and stand 94 cm tall. The 2 million breeding pairs dine on squid and fish, and they live on the barren coasts found within the Sub-Antarctic islands. King penguins have an extremely unusual breeding timeframe that lasts approximately 14 months from courtship to the fledgling of the chick.

© Oceanwide Expeditions

6. Gentoo – There are 300,000 breeding pairs of Gentoo penguins in the Antarctic region, and this puts them second only to the Emperor penguin in terms of smallest population. As adults, Gentoos can reach 75 cm tall and weigh 5.6 kg. They rely on a diet of squid, fish and crustaceans. Baby chicks are usually hatched in October, but it takes three months before they are able to strike out on their own.

© Oceanwide Expeditions

It is estimated that there are 20 million breeding pairs of penguins living in the Antarctic region. Due to this high population, it is common for there to be up to 19 penguins within every square meter during the winter time. This makes it extremely easy to spot them during winter expeditions. 

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