Meet the World's Penguins

Penguins are a group of 18 species within the family Spheniscidae, they are the only family within the order Sphenisciformes.

These birds all share a lack of flight. Instead their body is well adapted for swimming with all of the species finding their food in the water. The wings of other birds have adapted in to feathers.

While the color of their body varies from blue to black all penguins exhibit countershading. This is where they have a dark color on their back and a light color on their belly. This provides camouflage while swimming in the water.

They are capable of incredibly deep dies with emperor penguins recorded at depths of up to 500m (1640ft). Underwater they may hold their breath for up to 20 minutes.

Their feathers overlap helping to make them waterproof while swimming. Each year they molt their feathers within the period of a few weeks. During this time they are not waterproof and cannot swim or hunt.

A group of penguins is known as a colony. Guinness World Records have recorded a colony of the chinstrap penguins as the largest penguin colony with as many as 2 million individuals there.

All species are colonial and penguins are highly social birds.

A King Penguin (Aptenodytes patagonicus)


Penguins are all carnivores. For most species the staple of their diet is fish but other water going animals are also eaten such as squid and krill.

Food is swallowed whole and as such they do not taste it.

These penguins are able to consume salt water due to the presence of a gland above the eyes through which salt can be excreted. This means they can drink sea water.


The penguins are restricted to the southern hemisphere. While most often associated with Antarctica they can also be found in Australia, New Zealand, Africa and South America. The galapagos penguin can be found right up to the equator.

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Record Breakers

World's largest Penguin

The largest of the eighteen penguin species is the emperor penguin. They can stand up to 1.2m (47in) tall and weigh up to 47kg (100lbs)

World's smallest Penguin

At just 33cm (13in) long and a weight of 1.5kg (3.3lbs) the little penguin of Australia and New Zealand is the smallest species of penguin.

An African Penguin (Spheniscus demersus)

Penguin Species - A full list of the 18 species

  • King Penguin (Aptenodytes patagonicus)
  • Emperor Penguin (Aptenodytes forsteri)
  • Gentoo Penguin (Pygoscelis papua)
  • Adelie Penguin (Pygoscelis adeliae)
  • Chinstrap Penguin (Pygoscelis antarcticus)
  • Southern Rockhopper Penguin (Eudyptes chrysocome)
  • Northern Rockhopper Penguin (Eudyptes moseleyi)
  • Fiordland Penguin (Eudyptes pachyrhynchus)
  • Snares Penguin (Eudyptes robustus)
  • Erect-crested Penguin (Eudyptes sclateri)
  • Macaroni Penguin (Eudyptes chrysolophus)
  • Royal Penguin (Eudyptes schlegeli)
  • Yellow-eyed Penguin (Megadyptes antipodes)
  • Little Penguin (Eudyptula minor)
  • African Penguin (Spheniscus demersus)
  • Humboldt Penguin (Spheniscus humboldti)
  • Magellanic Penguin (Spheniscus magellanicus)
  • Galapagos Penguin (Spheniscus mendiculus)

An Emperor Penguin (Aptenodytes forsteri)

Species Profiles - A detailed fact file on some of the world's penguin species

References 2021. Penguins. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 10 January 2021].

Nunez, E., 2021. Penguins. [online] National Geographic. Available at: <> [Accessed 10 January 2021].

Gill, F. and Prevost, J., 2021. Penguin - Form And Function. [online] Encyclopedia Britannica. Available at: <> [Accessed 10 January 2021]. 2021. All About Penguins - Behavior | Seaworld Parks & Entertainment. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 10 January 2021].

International, B., 2021. List Of Penguin Species. [online] BirdLife. Available at: <> [Accessed 10 January 2021].

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