Who loves penguins? Everybody! And if someone does not like penguins, I don’t want to know them. Penguins overdose us on cuteness. They are a joy to watch whether they are walking, swimming, nesting, or snoozing. I have been fortunate enough to see 5 Penguin Species eye to eye. They are all completely awesome!
- The Jackass Penguin: funny, right? They get their name because they make sounds like a donkey, hee haw! If you don’t believe me, just click HERE and see what I mean! They are also known as African Penguins and Black Foot Penguins. You can only find them on the southern African Coast, namely at Boulders Beach at Simon’s Town, near Cape Town, South Africa, and in Namibia. They grow to about 2 feet tall (less than a meter), and are light like most birds weighing in around 5 pounds. In the late 1900’s their population was at 4 million plus, and now there are less than 55,000 of them, in just two locations in the wild. They are also kept at zoos and marine aquariums. They are endangered, and if something isn’t done, they will soon be extinct. Our family met up with them on Boulder’s Beach in 2009, and we wanted to stay on that beach forever! Penguins are addictive, especially when they sound like Jackasses!
The other four penguin species I met in Antarctica with my friend Annie when we traveled with a Lindblad National Geographic Expedition. It was simply amazing to see penguins in Antarctica, it was like being in a documentary! The charm of penguins will become more and more evident!
2. The Chinstrap Penguin: the reason they are called Chinstraps is rather self evident. They grow a little over 2 feet and are a bit heavier than the Jackasses because they need some blubber to keep warm in Antarctica.The best news? There are over 8 million of them, breeding in Antarctica, Argentina, Chile, Falklands, and South Georgia Islands (not Georgia US, Georgia in the Southern Ocean). Cute, cute, cute!
3. Gentoo Penguins: I found that the Gentoos have a lot of personality. They are here, there, and everywhere! They are busy and they don’t really care much that humans visit their breeding grounds. We met them several times, on Danco Island and Brown Bluff, especially. Walking with purpose, they make a loud trumpeting sound with their head thrown back. The fastest swimming penguin, Annie and I spent hours watching them “purpoise” right outside our window. They are quite fast, and can really make time in the water. Their bills are bright orange, and so are their feet. Gentoos can get quite testy with each other about their nest space. Nests are guarded, and made of a circle of stones. Making a great looking nest is what the male needs to do to get a mate. Some lazy males steal stones from other nests, and when they get caught it makes quite a flap! They are the third largest of the penguins, and grow to almost 3 feet, and 19 pounds is the maximum for weight. These bold penguins strut around like they own the place, which, I guess they do!
4. The Adelie Penguin: these penguins are hysterical. Where one goes, all will follow. Their marching was just fantastic to watch at Brown Bluff. They were skittish, stayed tightly together, and were just too fun to watch. These darlings truly look like they are wearing tuxedos! They grow to around 2 feet and weigh up to 13 pounds. At Brown Bluff (in Antarctica) we could see Adelies everywhere, because there were 60,000 breeding pairs at that location alone! Delightful!
5. The Emperor Penguin: what a gift! Emperors are the largest of the penguins and nest in the dead of winter when it is dark and too cold to even contemplate trekking let alone taking care of an egg and a chick. We saw a few of them, and the entire ship came out on the decks to watch them. They grow to 4 feet and can be 100 pounds! They really are remarkable, and just watching them at a distance was an absolute thrill.
I now need to go back to Antarctica to see King Penguins and Southern Rockhoppers, and to New Zealand and environs to see more Rockhoppers! Have you seen penguins in the wild? Where? Did you fall in love with them?