Penguins of the World and Where to Find Them

Tara Sutherland

Tara Sutherland  |  9 September 2020

Did you know there are 17 - 19 species of penguins in the world?

These comical creatures are so curious to watch, whether it is waddling along the beach, going about their daily business, or darting through the water chasing the fish, krill or squid they live off.

I have fallen in love with these aquatic flightless birds, and hope one day to have been able to see all species in the wild (I have been lucky to see 9 species so far!!). I think many of you will be able to relate to this…so let take a closer look at the penguins of the world and where to find them. They all live in the Southern Hemisphere, except for the Galapagos penguin, which can be found all the way up at the equator!

penguin types

Barbara Harmon Daily Paintings

Note: Some of the images in this blog are from NZ Birds Online and penguins international


1. Little Blue Penguin

These wee fellows are the smallest, usually reaching a height of only 33cm! The feathers tend to have a blue- grey colour, hence the name. The population of these little ones is estimated to be around 469,760 and stable.

Where to find them: Australia; New Zealand, Stewart Island

Read more: Travel to Stewart Island 

little penguin



2. Galapagos

These are the “quietest” penguin of the lot! And the only penguin that crosses the equator line. They are unfortunately on the endangered species list, so you might like to support them. Galapagos Islands are a National Park and a fee is paid when you take a cruise. It is fun to spot them in this unexpected environment.

Where to find them: They live in the Galapagos Islands of Ecuador, some of which are in the Northern Hemisphere, and others in the Southern. 

> Read more: Guide to Galapagos: How to get the most out of your visit

Galapagos Penguin



3. African

Also known as the jackass penguin (from the sound they make!) Part of the banded group of penguins due to the band like markings. These little fellows are endangered according to the IUCN Red list with a population of 41,700 that is unfortunately decreasing.

Where to find them: Namibia; South Africa

African penguin Cape Town



 4. Magellanic 

The Magellanic Penguin is named after the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan who first reported seeing them in South America in 1520. They dig burrows in the dirt up to 1 meter deep to make their nest and raise their young.

Where to find them: Brazil; Peru; Uruguay; Falkland Islands; Argentina; Chile

Magellanic Penquin



5. Humboldt

They like to nest in guano, their populations were first devastated by the mining of guano deposits for use as fertilizer. IUNC still lists them as vulnerable however, thankfully they are protected today.

Where to find them: Coastal Peru & Chile

> Read more: South America's Best Wildlife Destinations

Humboldt penguin



6. Snares Penguin

These penguins look funky with their bright yellow crests. This penguin species is vulnerable and as a population of approximately 63,000. Their habitat is in the forest and marine oceanic. Snares Penguin can only be found on Snares Island in New Zealand, hence the name. Very few people have been lucky enough to see them. You will need to journey on one of these amazing expedition cruises.

Where to find them: Snares Island, New Zealand

Snares Penguin and chick



7. Fiordland

See if you can spot barnacles growing on their tails – this is because they spend up to 75% of their lives in the ocean during winter! Fiordland Penguins are near threatened, so if you want to catch a glimpse of these little ones choose a responsible cruise or tour guide in order to not impact their habitat.

Where to find them:  Fiordland, and Southland area of New Zealand

fiordland crested penguin



8. Northern Rockhopper

These guys look like rock stars to me! With their long yellow plumes on each side of their heads. Best distinguished from Southern Rockhopper Penguin by much longer yellow plumes on the Northern Rockhopper.

Where to find them: French Southern Territories; Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha; Falkland Islands (rare)

Northenr rockhopper penguin



9. Southern Rockhopper

These little rock stars have thin yellow stripes that run backward above each eye and extend from the sides of the head as spiked yellow plumes.

Where to find them: Argentina; Australian sub-Antarctic islands; Chile; Crozet Islands; Falkland Islands; Heard Island and McDonald Islands; Kerguelen Islands; New Zealand sub-Antarctic islands; Marion Island, Prince Edward Islands

> Read more: The Sub Antarctic Island Guide

Southern Rockhopper



10. Erect – crested

These birds lay their eggs directly on rocks and have very rudimentary nests. The latest assessment by IUCN showed that these penguins are endangered since their population is steadily decreasing. 

Where to find them: New Zealand

Erect crested



 11. Macaroni

No, they were not named after pasta! To the 18th century English explorers that named them, these tassels resembled the feathers called “macaronis” on the hats worn by young fashionable men.

Where to find them: Antarctic Peninsula; Bouvet Island; Chile; Crozet Islands; Falkland Islands; Heard Island and McDonald Islands; Kerguelen Islands; Prince Edward Islands; South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands; South Orkney Islands

Macaroni penguin 123



12. Royal

Looks similar to the macaroni penguin but has a white or pale face. This is not a common penguin to encounter unless you take one of the few expedition voyages to Macquarie Island.

 Where to find them: Australia (Macquarie Island; Bishop Island)

Austral Macquarie Sandy Bay Ponant



13. Yellow-Eyed

Sadly, the yellow-eyed penguins are endangered, and one of the rarest penguin species in the world. Known as hoiho to the indigenous Maori of New Zealand, which means “noise-maker.”

Where to find them: New Zealand

Yellow eyed penguin



 14. Adelie

Take a cruise to Antarctica to encounter hundreds of these penguins with their long tail feathers. You are likely to find large colonies.

Where to find them: Antarctica; South Orkney Islands; South Sandwich Islands; Bouvet Island




15. Chinstrap

Known for their feisty behavior, these ones are easy to spot with a black strap that runs ear to ear, like a chin strap!

Where to find them: Western Antarctic Peninsula; Bouvet Island; South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands; South Orkney Islands

> Read more: South Georgia and the Falklands: here's all you need to know


chinstrap penguin



 16. Gentoo

The 3rd tallest penguin, and the one with the longest tail feathers, you are bound to meet them in Antarctica! Gentoo Penguin's population is stable and has approximately 774,000 mature individuals. They feel at home in the ocean but can also be found in grassland areas. 

Where to find them: Antarctic Peninsula; Australia (Macquarie Is.); Falkland Islands; French Southern Territories (Kerguelen, Crozet Is.); Heard Island and McDonald Islands; South Africa (Marion-Prince Edward Is.); South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands; Chile


gentoo penguin



17. King

The 2nd tallest penguin, they don’t make a nest, but rather hold the egg on their feet! Their large colonies of hundreds of thousands of breeding pairs are a sight (and a smell!) to behold. You don’t have to go all the way to Antarctica, our Patagonia tour is lucky enough to visit the colony in Argentina.

Where to find them: Argentina; Crozet Islands; Falkland Islands; Kerguelen Islands; Heard Island and McDonald Islands; South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands

King penguin



18. Emperor

The largest penguin of them all, in height and body mass. Emperor penguins weigh 32-40kg and stand up to 1.2 metres!

Where to find them: Antarctica, but don’t expect them to be everywhere. There are special voyages that go in search of emperor penguins, which are only found in the most southern latitudes. These two itineraries are great options for anyone wanting to see emperor penguins: Emperor Penguins of Weddell Sea or Emperor Penguins of the Bellingshausen sea


emperor penguin

Emperor Penguins


What to consider when visiting a Penguin colony

Visiting a penguin colony is one of the most unique things you can do! However, as we've already mentioned, many penguin species are endangered or vulnerable that is why it is very important to follow the guidelines given by your guide. Walk slowly, keep a distance of 5m to any penguin and stay on the pathway and do not spread out. Assess the penguins behaviour and retreat whenever there are signs of disturbance. Do NOT litter!

> Read more: Become an Antarctic Ambassador


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