Story: Penguins

Page 8. Penguins of New Zealand Antarctica

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Adélie penguins

The Adélie penguin (Pygoscelis adeliae) has a circumpolar distribution confined to the Antarctic, where it breeds on the shores and off-lying islands. Within the New Zealand-claimed Ross Sea sector, there are colonies breeding on Ross Island and north along the western coastline of the Ross Sea to Cape Adare, the largest Adélie penguin colony in the world.

Medium-sized at 71 centimetres and 5 kilograms, these are the classic tuxedoed black and white penguins, with the distinctive white eye ring.

Chinstrap penguins

The chinstrap penguin (Pygoscelis antarctica) is a member of the same genus as Adélie penguins, and also confined to the Antarctic. They are mostly concentrated around the Antarctic Peninsula, with an anomalous few breeding on the Balleny Islands in the Ross Sea sector.

Similar in body mass to an Adélie, although a little longer at about 77 centimetres, they are recognisable by their white faces and a thin black line running under the chin. Like Adélies, they feed almost exclusively on krill.

Happy Feet

In July 2011 a disoriented emperor  penguin was discovered on Peka Peka beach, north of Wellington, more than 3,000 kilometres off course from Antarctica. When he fell ill after eating sand and driftwood he was operated on by Wellington Zoo vets. After recovering, Happy Feet, as he was dubbed, was released in the Southern Ocean. The tracking device he was wearing stopped broadcasting after a week, so his fate is unknown.

Emperor penguin

The emperor penguin (Aptenodytes forsteri) breeds in Antarctica, in winter, on stationary sea ice. There are colonies at Cape Crozier (Ross Island), at Beaufort Island, and along the western margins of the Ross Sea at Cape Washington.

Emperors are the largest of all living penguins, about 112 centimetres long and 30–38 kilograms in body mass. They (and the closely related king penguin) differ from other penguins in that they lay only a single egg, incubated on their feet rather than in a nest.

Vagrant visitors to New Zealand

Six other penguin species have been recorded as visitors to New Zealand:

  • king penguin (Aptenodytes patagonicus)
  • gentoo penguin (Pygoscelis papua)
  • royal penguin (Eudyptes schlegeli)
  • macaroni penguin (Eudyptes chrysolophus)
  • western rockhopper penguin (Eudyptes chrysocome)
  • Moseley's rockhopper penguin (Eudyptes moseleyi).
How to cite this page:

Lloyd Spencer Davis, 'Penguins - Penguins of New Zealand Antarctica', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 20 June 2024)

Story by Lloyd Spencer Davis, published 12 Jun 2006, reviewed & revised 11 Jul 2016