I think it’s a well-known thing among my friends and family that despite my hardened New England shell, I cry at every movie and none more than March of the Penguins. I was like., “*SOB*, their lives are so hard. They work so hard. It’s so cold. *SOOOOOOB*.” And it’d remind me of how cold it was for me as a kid when I played outside and they didn’t even have a snowsuit. Anyway, penguins are not only resilient but they are awesome and playful. If you ask your average little kid to name their favorite bird, chances are it’ll be a penguin and for good reason. And they are bad ass.
There are 17 different types of Penguins, most are in the Antarctic or sub-Antarctic region though a few are further north (one is even above the equator—the Galapagos Penguin). Let’s briefly look at all of them. (pics are from Wikipedia Commons unless otherwise noted)
African Penguin is also called the Jackass Penguin because of its unique braying call. They live and breed on the South African coast.
Adelie Penguin is short and wide and lives and breeds in the Antarctic and subantartic area. Known for stealing rocks from their neighbors’ nests, they will do what a penguin does to survive.
Chinstrap Penguins are small, krill loving penguins that gather in the thousands on small, sub-Antarctic islands.
Emperor Penguins are the largest Penguins, standing up to 45 inches tall. They like fish and squid because krill isn’t good enough for these big guys.
Erect Crested Penguins are very unique little birds which live on a few islands in South New Zealand. Because they breed on such remote islands (Bounty and Antipodes Island), they aren’t that well known but they do have one distinctive and strange feature:
This species has one of the most bizarre breeding systems of any bird, yet the details are poorly known due to its remote and inhospitable breeding locations. It has the most extreme egg size dimorphism of any bird, with the second egg of the clutch averaging 81% larger than the first egg. The purpose (if any) of the first egg remains unclear, with nearly all pairs losing the smaller first egg around the time the second egg is laid. Much of this egg loss is deliberate, with incubating birds lifting eggs out of the nest bowl, or pushing them out with their bills.
Eggs for dinner?
Fiordland Penguins live in more temperate climates, in the rainforest of southwest of South Island and Stewart Island of New Zealand. They live and breed in shrubs and in caves—not like the large colonies of birds we associate with Antarctic Penguins.
Galapagos Penguins are the only penguins north of the equator and because of climate change, introduced species and pollution, they are critically endangered.
Gentoo Penguins inhabit the waters and islands of Antarctica and a wide range of sub-Antarctic islands, having the third largest population of any penguin.
Humboldt Penguins are named after the cold current that originates in Antarctica and wraps itself up to Peru and Chile, where this bird resides. It likes to nest in Guano deposits and our now vulnerable due to the use of those deposits for fertilizers, among other environmental threats.
King Penguins are appropriately named because they are big but not quite as big as Emperor Penguins. They are in the sub-Antarctic belt, north of where Emperor Penguins live. (first pic from Flickr by Liam Quinn).
Little Penguins are predictably the smallest Penguin of all, living off of the Southern Australian coast. They are a tiny 11 inches and weigh about 2 and a half pounds, being about 1/4 the height of an Emperor Penguin.
Macaroni Penguins are likely the most populated penguins species. Like the Erect Crested Penguin, the Macaroni Penguin lays two eggs, with the second being much larger and far more likely to survive. They live in at least 216 different colonies in 50 habitats in the sub-Antarctic region from the Falkland Islands and Chile (among other ares). They will forage in other waters, including near Australia and South Africa. (second pic from Robin Williams fansite).
Magellanic Penguins breed around Puerto Montt, Chile and is a medium sized and highly sociable animal. They are also monogamous (so romaaantic), being in pairs that build their nests in bushes and burrows. The male brays like a donkey to fight for his lady penguin against his rivals.
Rockhopper Penguins are crested penguins who like to breed on the most remote permanently inhabited island in the world, Tristan da Cunha (I’ve read so much about them instead of doing my work). Recently, they banded together to save those little penguins from an oil spillage, though to be fair, I wonder what else they have going on.
After the King and the Emperor, it seems inevitable that they’d have the Royal Penguin as well. They are plumed as well, living in the islands off of Southern New Zealand in large colonies on the rocky coasts.
The Snares Penguin lives on Snares island off of New Zealand (I really want to go down to those forests). They are medium sized penguins, who stand around 20 inches tall and can live as long as 25 years. They also don’t start breeding until they are six years of age.
Last and probably not least is the Yellow-Eyed Penguin. These are the rarest penguins. Their numbers are plunging because of a “toxic sea agent” and other factors which threaten the survivability of the species.
A brief interesting history about the yellow eyed penguin from Yellow-eyed Penguin Trust:
Scientifically, the yellow-eyed penguin is very special. It is the only one in its genus, Megadyptes antipodes.
Penguin fossils dating back more than 60 million years have been found in New Zealand. The yellow-eyed penguin is truly a unique and ancient bird. Recent research has, however, revealed the existence of a now-extinct sister species, known as Megadyptes waitaha. The waitaha penguin was found on the South Island and appears to have been harvested to extinction by Maori around 1500 AD. Yellow-eyed penguins took advantage of the newly available habitat and colonised the mainland from the subantarctic Auckland and Campbell Islands.
Penguins are believed to have evolved at least 65 million years ago from the same ancestral stock as the albatrosses, shearwaters and petrels. Of the 32 fossil penguin species known to science, 16 have been recorded in New Zealand. Many of the ancient penguins were much bigger than their present day descendants, averaging 90 cm in height (contrasted with 60 cm for today’s penguins).
The largest know fossil penguin, Anthropornis nordenskjoeldi, found on Seymour Island in Antarctica, stood 170 cm tall. Pachydyptes ponderosus, found near Oamaru in New Zealand, stood 164 cm tall.
Another giant penguin which lived on New Zealand shores was the Kairuku grebneffi, which stood 130cm tall. Kairuku, a Maori word loosely translated as “diver who returns with food”, probably became extinct from its New Zealand habitat between 24 and 25 million years ago. Kairuku stood 1.3 metres tall – 30 cm taller than its nearest modern-day rival, the Emperor Penguin, of Antarctica. With its spear-like bill, it weighed at least 60 kilograms, which is 50% heavier than the Emperor Penguin.
Researchers are not sure why the “giant” penguins disappeared. Climate change, or increased predation from dolphins and seals, has been suggested as possible causes of extinction.