Penguins of Antarctica

Which Penguins will I see, and where?


Alex Burridge – Antarctica Travel Centre

There are 17 species of penguins found around the world, all bar one live solely in the Southern hemisphere (the Galapagos penguin can be found just north of the equator due to the cold Humboldt current which runs along the coast of South America from Chile to Ecuador).

On the Antarctic Peninsula, South Georgia and the Falkland Islands you can find a total of 7 species.

The Antarctic Peninsula (4 species)
There are only three penguin species you’ll definitely see; gentoo, chinstrap and Adelie. Colony size will vary from 20-30 pairs to colonies with thousands of pairs. The chance of seeing more species is very small.

Gentoo Penguin
Chinstrap Penguin
Adélie Penguin
Adelie Penguin tabogganing

The fourth species is the Emperor penguin, the chances of seeing them is small. Whilst several Antarctic operators use images of Emperors with their grey, down covered, young, or talk of Emperor Penguins (you know the ones in Happy Feet). The vast majority of Antarctic cruises have little chance of seeing one – maybe a 1% chance – it would be pure luck to find one bird that has ‘got lost’ and is found on a beach amongst other penguin species. It happens once or twice a season.
There are a couple of voyages that offer increased chances of seeing Emperors as they depart early in the season (late October or November) and explore the Weddell Sea. And to really have any chance you need an icebreaker ship and helicopters to fly close to an Emperor colony with young. They breed on fast sea-ice (not on land) and to see them you need to access the colonies before the sea-ice breaks up and the penguins disperse (mid-November) out to sea where they spend most of their lives (they only come ‘ashore’ to breed).

Please call to see if these voyages are being offered.

Emperor (grey young)

South Georgia (4 species)
This amazing island is home to millions of Macaroni penguins, hundreds of thousands of King penguins as well as sizeable colonies of gentoos (100,000 pairs) and a relatively small population of chinstrap penguins (6,000 pairs).

King Penguins are smaller versions of emperors, colourful, noisy and charismatic. Their chicks are fluffy and brown (Emperor chicks are grey – and are not see on South Georgia). Many people ask do I need to visit South Georgia at a certain time to see chicks – the answer is no – you’ll see them all season long (from November to March).

Macaroni Penguin
King Penguin

Falkland Islands (5 species)

Of all the places you’ll likely see more species here than in Antarctica or South Georgia. You’ll find;
gentoo, macaroni, king (two or three small colonies) and two new species of penguins Magellanic & rock-hopper – five species in total.

Magellanic Penguin
Rock-hopper Penguin

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