Penguins are flightless marine birds that live only in the Southern Hemisphere, mostly between latitudes 45° and 60° S (north of Antarctica) and on islands. The Galapagos penguin lives at the Equator and four species have colonies on Antarctica.

These stocky, short-legged birds are mostly black on the back and white below – for camouflage. Colour is rare and limited to small areas of red, orange or yellow.
Penguins are excellent swimmers and can dive to great depths. Their shape makes them very agile underwater; the feet and tail act as a rudder, and flippers as propellers. On land, penguins can run with speed, and many ‘toboggan’ on the belly on snow or ice. They have a waterproof coat of short, overlapping feathers and a good layer of fat for insulation.

Penguins feed on small fish and krill, catching them one at a time. They become food for leopard seals and killer whales at sea. On land skuas and sheathbills take both eggs and chicks.

Many species are vulnerable to changes in climate and warming ocean temperatures. Penguins also are very sensitive to depletion of local fish populations by humans.

Emperor Penguin Aptenodytes forsteri
Breeds: Antarctica
Size: 120 cm high, up to 40 kg
World population: 220,000 breeding pairs
Food: Antarctic silverfish and other fish, Antarctic krill and some species of squid
Conservation status: near-threatened

King Penguin Aptenodytes patagonicus
Breeds: Sub-Antarctic islands to south of South America, Africa and New Zealand (Marion, Prince Edward, Crozet, Kerguelen, Heard, Macquarie, South Georgia and Falkland islands)
Size: 90 cm long; 12–14 kg
World population: 2,000,000 breeding pairs
Food: small bioluminous lanternfish, and other prey, such as squid
Conservation status: least concern

Gentoo Penguin Pygoscelis papua
Breeds: Sub-Antarctic islands Falklands, South Georgia, Kerguelen, Heard, South Orkney, Macquarie, Crozet, Prince Edward and South Sandwich, and Antarctic Peninsula
Size: 80 cm long; 5 kg
World population: 320,000 breeding pairs
Food: fish and squid
Conservation status: near threatened

Yellow-eyed Penguin Megadyptes antipodes
Breeds: Southeast coast of New Zealand South Island and Auckland and Campbell islands
Size: 55 cm; 5.5–8 kg
World population: 1,500 breeding pairs
Food: any fish shorter than 25 cm; favourites are blue cod, red cod and arrow squid
Conservation status: endangered
The cryptic Yellow-eyed Penguin

Chinstrap Penguin Pygoscelis antarctica
Breeds: Antarctic Peninsula; islands in the South Atlantic Ocean; Balleny Islands, south of New Zealand
Size: 74 cm; 3.5–5.5 kilograms; males larger and heavier than females
World population: 7,500,000 breeding pairs
Food: krill and fish
Conservation status: least concern

Royal penguin Eudyptes schlegeli
Breeds: Macquarie Island
Size: 70 cm long; about 5–8 kg, females slightly smaller than males
World population: 550,000 breeding pairs
Food: krill, juvenile lanternfish
Conservation status: vulnerable

Magellanic Penguin Spheniscus magellanicus
Breeds: Chile, Argentina and Falkland Islands
Size: 70 cm long; about 4 kg, females slightly smaller than males
World population: 1,800,000 breeding pairs; populations threatened by competition from commercial fishing for squid and fin fish, and oil spillage from tankers and drilling rigs
Food: roughly equal proportions of fish, squid and crustaceans

Macaroni Penguin Eudyptes chrysolophus
Breeds: Circumpolar sub-Antarctic islands and Antarctic Peninsula.
Size: 70 cm long; about 5.5 kg
World population: 11 million breeding pairs, most numerous penguin species
Food: krill and fish
Conservation status: vulnerable

Humboldt Penguin Spheniscus humboldti
Breeds: Pacific coast of South America from Isla Foca (5°S) off the coast of Peru to Northern Chile
Size: 70 cm; 4 kg, females are slightly smaller than the males
World population: 12,000 breeding pairs
Food: fish, especially anchovies, herring and smelt
Conservation status: vulnerable; serious decline from overfishing, fishing net entanglement and commercial guano remova

African Penguin Spheniscus demersus
Breeds: Namibia and South Africa
Size: 68 cm long; about 2–4 kg
World population: 70,000 breeding pairs, in 27 breeding colonies; probably 10% of the 1900 population
Food: pilchards, anchovies, squid
Conservation status: endangered
African Penguin dating service

Adelie Penguin Pygoscelis adeliae
Breeds: Antarctic coasts, South Shetlands, South Orkneys, Bouvet, Balleny and Peter Island
Size: 70 cm long; 4–6 kg; males slightly larger than females, especially in bill
World population: 2.5 million breeding pairs
Food: krill; fish during the breeding season; squid during winter
Conservation status: least concern

Snares Penguin Eudyptes robustus
Breeds: Snares Islands, New Zealand
Size: 50 cm ?40cm ; 3 kg
World population: 30,000 breeding pairs
Food: crustaceans, cephalapods and fish
Conservation status: vulnerable

Erect-crested Penguin Eudyptes sclateri
Breeds: Antipodes, Bounty, Auckland and Campbell islands
Size: 67 cm long; 4 kg
World population: 170,000 breeding pairs
Food: probably fish and krill near the surface
Conservation status: endangered

Fiordland Penguin Eudyptes pachyrhynchus
Breeds: New Zealand coastlines in South Westland, to Fiordland; islands of Foveaux Strait and Stewart Island
Size: 55 cm long; 4 kg, males slightly larger than females
World population: 3,000 breeding pairs
Food: juvenile squid, octopus, krill and small fish
Conservation status: vulnerable

Southern rockhopper Penguin Eudyptes chrysocome
Breeds: islands in the region of 46–54°S, including Falkland Islands, Heard Island, McDonald Islands, and Macquarie Island
Size: 52 cm, about 3 kg
World population: 1 million breeding pairs (decreased by > 30% in past few decades)
Food: crustaceans and squid
Conservation status: vulnerable

Northern rockhopper Penguin Eudyptes moseleyi
Breeds: seven islands or island groups (most on Tristan de Cunha islands and Gough Island) in the temperate Indian and South Atlantic oceans in 37–40°S
Size: 52 cm, about 3 kg
World population: 240,000 breeding pairs (decreased 60% in past 40 years)
Food: 90% krill; squid important during chick rearing
Conservation status: endangered

Galapagos Penguin Spheniscus mendiculus
Breeds: Galapagos Islands, primarily on Fernandina Island and west coast of Isabela Island
Size: 49 cm long; less than 2.5 kg; females smaller than males
World population: less than 1,000 breeding pairs
Food: small schooling fish, particularly mullet and sardines
Conservation status: endangered
From The New York Times: Even penguins have children who won’t leave the nest

Little (Blue, Fairy) Penguin Eudyptula minor
Breeds: Southern Australia and New Zealand
Size: 43 cm; 1.5 kg
World population: c. 500,000 breeding pairs
Diet: Mostly pilchards and anchovies
Subspecies: seven – one in Australia; five in New Zealand main islands and one on Chatham Island
Conservation status: least concern
Another reason to see Little Penguins on Kangaroo Island

Sources: Australian Antarctic Division

Organization for the Conservation of Penguins