One of the star attractions of the Polar regions are the Penguin family. They are a unique and endearingly characteristic group of aquatic, flightless birds who live in the southern hemishphere, mainly around Antarctica. They are not only confined to cold climates, some are found further north in South America, some around the southern shores of South Africa and the most furthest north is the Galapagos Penguin, living near the equator.
Want to know where to see penguins? Read on …
Their ‘wings’ have evolved into flippers, making them wonderfully skilful swimmers and fishers, but giving them a somewhat comical ‘waddle’ when they are on land! They feed mainly on fish, krill and squid which they catch underwater, spending their time pretty much half and half on land and in the oceans. The exact number of species of Penguin is always in debate but seems to be around 17 – 20 species.
Most penguins breed in enormous colonies – noisy, smelly and unbelievable in some cases! The King, Chinstrap and Macaroni Penguins can breed in colonies with several hundred thousand birds on one site! There is a high level of social interaction between birds and they usually form monogmous pairs for the breeding season. Most penguins lay two eggs in a clutch although the largest, the Emperor and Kings, lay only one.
Want to know where to see particular penguins? Here is a list of some of the most well known species of penguin and where are the best places to see them. Generally the largest species inhabit the colder climates and frozen worlds and the smaller species are found in temperate climates.
Emperor Penguin This is the biggest of the penguins at an average of 1.1m tall and can weigh 35kg or more. Massive breeding colonies can be seen of this impressive bird and large groups of young gather in creches. Temperatures during their freezing winter can reach -60c and female Emperors will balance their egg on the feet of the males to incubate, while she goes to sea, leaving the groups of males huddled together. Their main colony is on Snow Hill in Antarctica. If you want to get there, contact me as there are only a few options to get here as the last icebreaker ship to do this trip has been handed over for research now. There may be other options from Ushuaia in Argentina to get to the Emperor colonies, I can find out the best trip to Antarctica for you to see them,
King Penguin these are often confused with their bigger cousin the Emperor and are the second largest penguin species. They differ in that King Penguins share egg incubation and they breed and live in the northern Antarctic waters, such as South Georgia and other islands in that area. This is the best place to see King Penguins and I can advise you on the best cruise to book at what time of year to see the breeding colonies. There are no airstrips on South Georgia so access is by boat, mainly by icebreaker. There is a large colongy on The Falklands.
Little Blue Penguin. Sometimes called the Fairy Penguin, this is the smallest at around 40cm tall and weighing around 1kg. These small birds are easily seen on Phillip Island in Australia where there is a viewing platform where yo can watch them return to their colonies at night. They can also be seen on nearby Kangaroo Island. This species is found on southern shores of both Australia and New Zealand (there have been occasional sightings in Chile too).
Rockhopper Penguin Easily identified by their huge eyebrows, red eyes and pink feet, these penguins have a strange method of ‘hopping’ rather than waddling on their home shorelines of north Antarctica where they can be found from Chile to New Zealand. They are very sociable and are a small species at about 50cm high. One of the best Rockhopper colonies is found on the north coast of the Falkland Islands at Cape Bougainville.
Ask me about any species of penguin you particularly are keen to see and I’ll find the best wildlife holiday for you to the right part of the world at the right time of year, be it by tailor made itinerary or on an Antarctic Cruise.