Penguin Species Overview

Penguin Species and Taxonomy

There are quite a few distinct species of penguins out there. Unfortunately they often get lumped together with a general term. However, once you start to explore their appearance, where they live, and their behaviors you will understand that there are quite a few differences from one to the next.

There is some debate out there when it comes to the various species of penguins. Many experts will tell you that there are only 17 of them. Others believe that there are 18 of them. The one that is highly debated is the Fairy Penguin with the characteristic of white flippers. Others believe that this is a mutated change though for survival and not a separate species.

Popular Species

One that is very popular is the Adelie Penguin. It is the smallest of them found in the Antarctic. Adelie Penguins have a head that is completely black except for a white circle around their eyes. They are only about 30 inches tall and weigh less than 12 pounds. They are very aggressive in nature to each other. They form colonies with thousands of them in one location. The King Penguin is said to be the most beautiful due to the coloring of both yellow and orange on them. They are the second largest of the birds and can be up to 3 feet tall and around 35 pounds. The Gentoo Penguin is about the same height but they weigh less than 19 pounds so they are tall and slender. They have a strip of white that looks like an upside down horseshoe from the top of each eye and across the back side of the head.

Penguin Species

  1. Emperor Penguin
  2. Adelie Penguin
  3. King Penguin
  4. Galapagos Penguin
  5. Humboldt Penguin
  6. Macaroni Penguin
  7. Little Blue Penguin
  8. Rockhopper Penguin
  9. African Penguin

The Chinstrap Penguin offers a distinct band of black that runs underneath the chin. They are able to live in the extreme cold in the Antarctic. It is common to find them on the ice and even playing on the icebergs found there. At the other end of the spectrum you have the Magellanic Penguins. They like the heat of the sun and are mainly found in Chile.

From one Rock to the Next Named after its ability to hop from one rock to the next, the Rockhopper Penguin is the most unusual. They have the ability to keep their feet together when they hop. They may not seem very strong but they definitely are. They can jump around two feet at a time.They definitely stand out due to the bright yellow feathers that are start on the front of their heads.

Another named for its looks is the Yellow Eyed Penguin. In addition to the yellow that circles their face; they have red that defines the black of their bills. They are extremely rare though with less than 4,000 of them left in New Zealand.

“The Emperor Penguin is the largest and most beautiful penguin. They can reach up to 1.2 meters tall.”

Species Evolution

It is believed that more than 40 species of penguins that once were on Earth are now extinct. This information is based on findings that have been carefully evaluated over the years. This same information indicates that all species of penguins came from early forms of birds. They evolved to be creatures that could survive in the water. This is why their flippers developed instead of wings with the ability to fly.

Learning about the various penguin species is very interesting. Take one or two of them that you aren’t very familiar with and learn all you can about them. As you do so, the many distinctions from one species to the next will become more obvious to you. This process will also help you to appreciate the world of penguins as a whole more than you do right now.



Animals, a visual encyclopedia. Second edition. Smithsonian 2012.

World of Animals Magazine. Issue 04. Imagine publishing.

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