Antarctic Penguins

Adelie penguins

Adelie Penguins are the smallest of the Antarctic penguins, about 70 cm tall and 5.5 kgs in weight.

Their main predators in the sea are leopard seals, which often lie in wait beneath rock ledges to grab the first penguin into the water.

Their main predators on land are skuas, birds that break and eat the eggs, or prey on the small chicks.

They come ashore in October to breed in the few weeks of summer. There is fierce competition for nest sites on high ground in the middle of the colony where it is safer from skuas. Soon after laying 2 eggs in a rocky nest, the female returns to the sea to feed, leaving the male for up to ten days. Nests cannot be left unattended in the intense cold, so males and females take turns incubating the eggs.

After 30 days the chicks hatch, and parents take turns to feed them. At 4 weeks old, they are as big as adults and both parents must hunt together to get enough food to feed them. The colony's chicks wait together in the care of a few adults. Adult birds gather in large numbers at the water's edge waiting for the right moment to take the plunge.

There are about 2.5 million adelies in Antarctica.

Gentoo Penguins have the biggest range of any penguin, spreading over Antarctic coastal islands and islands further away.

They can dive to about 330 metres, but generally feed closer to the surface.

They breed on Antarctica and on the islands nearby in September-October. Females lay 2 eggs, the second one about 3 days after the first. Chicks hatch about 35-40 days later.

Gentoo Penguins

They are the largest of the brush-tailed penguins, about 75 cm tall and 5.5 kg in weight.

Chinstrap penguins

They are about 71 - 76 cm tall and weigh about 4.5 kg.

Chinstrap penguins are named for the narrow band of black feathers extending from ear to ear under their chins.

They are the most numerous of penguins, with a population of about 12-13 million, found only on the Antarctic Peninsula and the sub-antarctic islands.

They nest in high places that are the first to become free of snow so that their chicks have more time in which to mature.

Rockhopper penguins do not breed further south than Heard Island, which is in the mid-South Atlantic between South America and Australia.

Pairs generally return to the same nest each year in October. Females lay 2 eggs, and stay incubating the eggs while the males go to sea to feed. The males and females then swap over, and the females return as the chicks hatch. The males guard the chicks and the females feed them. When the chicks are bigger, it takes both parents to find enough food for them so the chicks are left together in a group. The penguins leave the nesting island in late April.

Rockhopper penguins

They are the smallest of the crested penguins, weighing about two and a half kilograms. Crested penguins have a crest of yellow feathers on their heads.

King penguins

Chicks remain in colonies all year, and the adults return to feed them at irregular intervals all winter.

King penguins are the second largest penguins, 85-95cm tall and weighing 14-16 kg. They breed on South Georgia, Macquarie and Heard islands in colonies of just 30 to thousands of birds. They prefer level ground close to the sea, on beaches and valleys free from ice and snow.

Predators at sea include leopard seals and killer whales.

Main predators on land are skuas, sheathbills and giant petrels that take eggs and young chicks.

Royal and Macaroni penguins

They are in the crested penguins group, named for the yellow crest of feathers on their heads.

These two species (kinds) are very similar, and scientists have only recently decided they are actually different species. There seem to be very few differences.

Royal penguins have a white chin.

Macaroni penguins have a black chin.

Royal penguins breed only on Macquarie Island, nowhere else in the world. They form large colonies, the largest of which consists of about 500,000 pairs!

Macaroni penguins breed on Heard and South Georgia Islands and a few others.

The female lays two eggs, the first of which is always discarded, for reasons that are not yet known. Eggs are laid in October, and hatch about 30 days later. Males guard chicks for 3-4 weeks, then both parents have to feed the chicks, who remain in groups called creches.

It is not known where Royal penguins go between breeding seasons.

Emperor penguins are the largest, and live in Antarctica. Read about them here.

Other kidcyber penguin pages.... Penguins Little penguins

What are groups of penguins called? Find out here

Find out more about Antarctic penguins:

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If you use any part of this in your own work, acknowledge the source in your bibliography like this:
Sydenham, S. & Thomas, R. Antarctic Penguins [Online]

Updated January 2014©kidcyber