Names for a Penguin

To change a lightbulb, how many penguins are required? Did you say “1”? Or “2”? Perhaps “3”… or the most prominent “0”, as penguins cannot change a bulb.

Before I give out the answer, let me first tell you that there are no wrong answers. However, the response I am seeking is a group with one of the highest success rates in all covet operations they have undertaken.

Remember Skipper, Kowalski, Rico, and Private? You guessed it – 4 of the most notorious ones from “The Penguins of Madagascar” series and a movie initially adapted from the movie series “Madagascar.”

Anyone couldn’t help but admire these four penguins for their military precision and hilarity in some, if not all, of them.

I found them humorous than any other characters as they never failed to tickle my funny bone in any scene. Other movies such as “Surf’s Up” and “Happy Feet” are also quite famous.

And who can forget the supervillain, the Penguin, played by actor Danny DeVito, the fictional character from “Batman Returns” (1992) who was raised and later led the army of penguins?

A nature documentary, “March of the Penguins,” gave us an insight into their lives. Penguins have created a buzz among us commoners thanks to these Hollywood portrayals. Also, the penguins (with the name mentioned above) do not live in Madagascar.

The Galapagos penguin, which lives north of the Equator, is the only exception. Penguins inhabit the Southern Hemisphere, mainly Antarctica, Australia, New Zealand, South America, Africa, and most neighboring islands.

What are the penguins?

A pair of king penguins stepping out at Right Whale Bay on South Georgia Island.

Several theories exist concerning the origin of the term “penguin.” It first appeared in the 16th century as a name for the great auk, a similar-looking bird of the Northern Hemisphere that went extinct in the mid-19th century after being found and named by European explorers.

Penguins belong to the class Aves, but they cannot fly. There are no such types of penguins that can fly even for short distances.

However, they have evolved to be water creatures and not the air. They are great surfers and excellent swimmers.
One could even say they “fly” underwater, with their flippers that propel them at astonishing speeds, their feet and tail serve as a rudder. The flippers and the beak are the prime weapons in defense and attack.

Unlike birds of flight, penguins retain their keel – a ridge on the sternum/breastbone, the leading attachment site for flight muscles.

The keel has evolved to accommodate the birds’ flightless aquatic existence. The penguins’ feet are located laterally on their bodies, farther back than those of other birds.

As a result, they walk on their soles (plantigrade locomotion.) Rather than on their toes (digitigrade locomotion) like most birds.

They may appear awkward (even amusing) as they rock from side to side and walk on land. It is truly a spectacle to watch a group of penguins jumping into and out of the water.

On snow or ice, many penguins “toboggan” – slide on their belly as they push themselves with their stomach and feet.
It reminded me of how a human surfer gets up to surf by lying on his stomach and propelling his hands and feet into the water. These unique features make them more intriguing to study & explore.

The penguins’ feet are located laterally on their bodies, farther back than those of other birds. Adult male penguins are called cocks, and females are hens.

One cannot miss huge penguin colonies on land, where they turn up for mating and breeding. Once those eggs have hatched, you will see many chicks huddle together in creches. These are all indeed great spectacles.

Do all penguins have the same prey?

Typically, penguins catch things while swimming underwater, such as krill, fish, squid, and other forms of sea life.

Predators such as sharks, orcas, and leopard seals threaten adult penguins at sea. Because there are no predators on land, they approach humans without hesitation or fear.

During the early days of Antarctic exploration, sled dogs preyed upon them, but now dogs are banned in Antarctica. There was a hunt for oil for some species, such as the Royal Penguin.

However, the chicks and eggs of penguins fall prey to various sea birds such as skuas, petrels, sheathbills, and gulls.

Types of Penguins

Types of Penguins

There is indeed a vast diversity among the penguins around the world. It might be possible to distinguish them by comparing the colors, sizes, forms, and positions.

According to taxonomists, there are about 16-22 types of penguins. There are still debates on specific species, subspecies, and color morphs.

We have a list of 18 types of penguins that inhabit our world.

1. Emperor penguins, Aptenodytes forsteri
2. King penguins, Aptenodytes patagonicus
3. Adélie penguins, Pygoscelis adeliae
4. Gentoo penguins, Pygoscelis Papua
5. Chinstrap penguins, Pygoscelis antarcticus
6. Northern rockhopper penguins, Eudyptes moseleyi
7. Southern rockhopper penguins, Eudyptes chrysocome
8. Macaroni penguins, Eudyptes chyrsolophus
9. Royal penguins, Eudyptes schlegeli
10. Fiordland crested penguins, Eudyptes pachyrhynchus
11. Erect-crested penguins, Eudyptes sclateri
12. Snares Island penguins, Eudyptes robustus
13. Yellow-eyed penguins, Megadyptes antipodes
14. Little penguins (also known as fairy or little blue penguins), Eudyptula minor
15. Magellanic penguins, Spheniscus magellanicus
16. Humboldt penguins, Humboldt, Spheniscus humboldti
17. African penguins (formerly known as black-footed), Spheniscus demersus
18. Galápagos penguins, Spheniscus mendiculus

We are only describing a few of them in detail for you for ease. Let us dive right in.

1. Emperor Penguin

Scientific Name: Aptenodytes forsteri
Mass: Up to 88 pounds
Habitat: Antarctica
Conservation Status: Near threatened

Among all penguins, it is the world’s tallest and most impressive. They are the deepest divers. They have specialized feathers that help them insulate and eat to survive (about 6 kg/day).

They primarily live on the stable pack ice of Antarctica, though you may often find them on solid land. They are known to nurture their young in the harshest climate and conditions. They create breeding colonies with thousands of individuals who band together to raise their young.

While one parent shuffles back to the ocean to eat, the other incubates the egg for up to two months. Before the following winter season, a newborn Emperor penguin chick will hatch, creches, and fledge into the sea.
Since they are highly dependent on the Antarctic Sea ice for food and shelter, they are particularly susceptible to climate change.

The Emperor penguin’s mating rituals and life cycles are well-documented in films like “March of the Penguins.”

2. King Penguin

Scientific Name: Aptenodytes patagonicus
Mass: 30- 45 pounds
Habitat: Sub-Antarctic islands (South Georgia Island, McDonald’s, Herd, and Macquarie Islands)
Conservation Status: Least Concern

They are the second biggest penguins after Emperor Penguins. They are more noticeable because they have yellow patches around their eyes in the form of patches.
King penguins have a very extensive breeding or life cycle which lasts for 16 months. Instinctively, each bird returns to its island, where it was born to breed.

Unfortunately, this inbreeding among the same population limits the gene pool year after year, creating a lack of genetic diversity. This homogeneity could make these King Penguins vulnerable to being wiped out by disease or environmental changes.

The emperor and king penguins have a similar physical appearance. On the other hand, King penguins have significantly more silver in their necks and back feathers.

When emperor penguin chicks hatch, they are a near-solid brown or fuzzy brown commonly referred to as the ugly ducklings compared to their parents, but king penguin chicks have silver heads with black and white bodies.

In the wild, it’s also simple to distinguish between king and emperor penguins since they don’t inhabit the same areas.
Interesting Fact: The world’s only knighted Penguin, Brigadier Sir Nils Olav III, mascot and colonel-in-chief of the Royal Norwegian Guard.

3. Royal Penguin

Scientific Name: Eudyptes schlegeli
Mass: 4.2 kg
Habitat: Sub-Antarctic (Macquarie Island)
Conservation Status: Near threatened

Although not a great penguin like the king and emperor, the royal Penguin is certainly regal in its own right. They are fluffy, chubby, and super cute.

They have vivid colors as their beaks are not black but yellow and bear yellow crests. They lay two eggs. Usually, only one survives.

Found only in Macquarie Island and its adjacent islands in the sub-Antarctic waters of New Zealand. There has been considerable controversy among scientists about whether the royal Penguin is a subspecies of the macaroni penguin.

Most of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries saw them hunted for oil. Its significant threats include oil spills, introduced diseases, and climate change.

4. Macaroni Penguin

Scientific Name: Eudyptes chrysolophus
Mass: 4.7 kg
Habitat: Sub-Antarctic to Antarctic Peninsula
Conservation Status: Vulnerable

They are the most abundant species globally, with almost 24 million penguins spanning South America, Australia, Antarctica, and Marion Island. Their population is more than all other penguins combined.

As a result of globalization, colonies in almost all zones are vulnerable to human settlement. Chile and Argentina governments are making substantial conservation efforts.

Because macaroni penguins live in such tight colonies, they have a variety of vocalizations and odd nesting habits.

In rookeries with many adult birds, skuas and other raptors – have low predation rates on macaroni colonies due to inadequate space.

The prominent yellow feathered crest on their heads, reminiscent of the Macaroni’s hat feathers from the nursery rhyme “Yankee Doodle.”

5. Yellow-eyed Penguin

Scientific Name: Megadyptes
Mass: 5.4 kg
Habitat: New Zealand
Conservation Status: Endangered

The sole recognized living species of genus Megadyptes is a genuinely stunning bird that only lives in southeastern New Zealand, where they are known as “hoiho” – Maori for “noise shouter.”

They live in small colonies on Stewart Island and the Auckland Islands, Campbell Islands, and the Otago Peninsula.

It is one of the scarcest penguins, with just 3,000–4,000 adult individuals remaining in the wild.
Disease, habitat degradation, imported predators, and the effects of climate change are among its most significant concerns.

6. Gentoo Penguin

Scientific Name: Pygoscells Papua
Mass: 5.9 kg
Habitat: Antarctic and Sub-Antarctic Regions
Conservation Status: Least Concern

The Gentoo is easily distinguished from other members of its genus by its reddish/orange beak, white stomach, and blackhead.

A white band wraps around the Gentoo’s head, giving the impression that it is wearing white headphones.

After the Emperor and King, then Gentoo is the third-largest Penguin. They reproduce in vast colonies in rocky, sandy, or grassy environments. Speed (36 km/hr) and agility make them stand out.

The Gentoo, which feeds almost exclusively on Antarctic krill, can often swim along the beach during the summer.

They confirm their presence with their loud noises. They form nests with pebbles. Similarly, they are also used as possessions to attract females. Gentoos are strictly monogamous.

7. Chinstrap Penguin

Scientific Name: Pygoscells antarcticus
Mass: 3 – 5 kg
Habitat: Southern Pacific and Antarctic Islands
Conservation Status: Least Concern

The Chinstrap penguin is so named because it has a striking black line of feathers under its chin that resembles the chinstrap of a helmet. They may be found all over the planet.

Breeding sites for these birds include Antarctica, Argentina, Bouvet Island, Chile, the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas), the French Southern Territories, South Georgia, and the South Sandwich Islands.

In New Zealand, Saint Helena, and South Africa, a conservation program exists for Chinstrap penguins.
Chinstraps have a reputation for being rowdy and aggressive. They also create a distinctive sound like a cross between a donkey bray and a squawking bird.

8. African Penguin

Scientific Name: Spheniscus demersus
Mass: 3.1 kg
Habitat: South African regions
Conservation Status: Endangered

They are also known as Jackass or South Jackass Penguin, confined to South African regions such as Namibia, Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, and Mozambique.

It is a charismatic species and very popular with tourists. They have a distinct vocal personality – use their noisy birdsong to identify each other, find a mate and ask for food.

African penguins are scavengers who seek enormous fish schools like anchovies and sardines. They breed nearly entirely on a few dozen islands off Africa’s southwest coast, although there are a few colonies on the mainland, notably one near Cape Town’s Boulders Beach.

The list of other species of penguins areas such – Adeile, Australian, Fairy, Magellanic, Rockhopper (Northern, Eastern, and Southern), Snares, Galapagos, Erect crested, Humboldt, Fiordland, Allied King, White flippered, Cook Strait Little, and a few more.

Professor Lloyd Spencer Davis is known as Professor Penguin, who has been researching, documenting, and writing about the penguins for about 4 decades. Part of the purpose we find penguins so appealing is that they’re a bit like us.

“They’re upright birds. They walk on their legs a bit like us. They look like they’ve got a better sense of dress, of course. But it’s that process where they look like us, and we tend to anthropomorphize them and put on the characteristics about ourselves that we would like to have.”

What can we do to protect penguins?

1. Become a citizen scientist from the comfort of your home and help the scientists count penguins from satellite images. It allows them to gather data on penguin population trends.

2. Knit a penguin jacket: Little penguins, which were vulnerable to oil spills, can be saved by knitted sweaters and penchants for penguins, especially for the Penguin Foundation, on Philip Island their project.

3. Protect a penguin: Volunteer or make donations to Penguin Protection groups.

4. Be a responsible visitor: Adhere to strict wildlife watching guidelines, such as moving slowly and giving penguins the right of way while exploring Antarctica and other penguin-habitat areas.

Final Thoughts

Penguins face many threats, from introduced predators and diseases, geological events like volcanic eruptions, pollution, tangled in nets, climate change, and severe weather patterns.

Climate changes, commercial fishing significantly affect penguins’ breeding & dietary pattern.
Pollution, Oil spills, ocean warming due to carbon emissions continue to rise at the current rate, diseases, and predatory animals, where all such factors could significantly decrease penguin population.

Irrespective of their geographical location and the temperature they thrive on, penguins are still undisputedly “the coolest” and “the cutest” birds on the planet. We hope you feel the same too.

The facts to get cleared with answers are indeed interesting. I hope you got the response to the factual discussion that happened one day with your friends or family where you left the space filled with sheepish smiles.

Image Source

A pair of king penguins stepping out at Right Whale Bay on South Georgia Island by David Stanley / CC BY

Types of Penguins by Maykii / CC BY

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