Fun Facts About the Penguins of the Antarctic

Learn some fun facts about the penguins of the Antarctic!

With a handful of movies spotlighting the flightless birds, Hollywood seems to obsess over penguins. And for good reason. The adorable, waddling birds are friendly creatures that inhabit the frozen tundra of Antarctica and the surrounding Antarctic and sub-Antarctic islands. Those who travel on Hurtigruten voyages to Antarctica will get an up-close look at these stunning birds. Despite their recent claims to fame, did you know ...

  1. There are 17 total species of penguins, but the continent of Antarctica is home to only four breeding species of them. By far the most common is the chinstrap penguin (Pygoscelis antarctica), which owes its name to the narrow black band under its head. The second-most populated is the Adélie penguin (Pygoscelis adeliae), numbering approximately 2.3 million pairs in Antarctica. Other penguin species on the continent include the emperor penguin (Aptenodytes forsteri) and the Gentoo penguin (pygoscelis papua).
  2. Three more species live and nest on the Antarctic and sub-Antarctic islands: the macaroni penguin (Eudyptes chrysolophus), the rockhopper penguin (Eudyptes crestatus), and the king penguin (Aptenodytes patagonica).  
  3. All penguins live in the Southern Hemisphere – there are no penguins in the Arctic. Since there are no polar bears in Antarctica, polar bears do not eat penguins. This is only a common misconception. 
  4. Emperor penguins are the largest of all penguins. An average bird stand about 45 inches tall. 
  5. Emperor penguins can dive up to 1,850 feet. 
  6. Penguins are often called 'flippered flyers' because of their effortless movement through the water. This bird is not able to fly; its wings are developed for swimming rather than flying. Underwater, they can reach speeds of up to 15 to 25 miles per hour. 
  7. One method they use to survive the cruel environment is huddling together to escape wind and conserve warmth. Individuals take turns moving to the group's protected center. After the penguin has become relatively warm, it'll move to the outer perimeter of the group.
  8. Male emperor penguins stand for about 65 days through the icy temperatures and wild storms to keep their eggs warm. During this time, temperatures outside reach -76°F!
  9. Emporer penguins are the only penguins that breed in the Antarctic winter. The other species breed in the austral summer. 
  10. A group of chicks are called creches, and are left when the adults fish.
  11. A group of penguins is called a colony.
  12. The average penguin weighs about 88 pounds. That's a lot of insulation!
  13. Females sometimes travel 50 miles to reach the open ocean, where they find fish, quid, and krill. When they return to the breeding site, they carry a stomach full of food that they regurgitate to their young. 
  14. The ice begins to break up in December, Antarctic summer, just when young penguins are ready to swim and fish on their own.