Named after explorer Jules Dumont d’Urville’s wife, Adele, these penguins live on the Antarctic coast and can swim at speeds of up to 45 miles per hour. The birds are easily recognizable by the distinctive white rings around their eyes and the fact that they’re mostly black with a white belly — giving them an appearance close to the stereotypical image of penguins.
In 1911, explorer George Murray Levick observed the Adelie penguins' breeding cycle and was shocked by their “sexual deviance.” Homosexual acts, sexual abuse of chicks and attempts to mate with dead birds are recorded in Levick's paper "Sexual Habits of the Adelie Penguin," which was deemed too shocking for publication and was only recently discovered by London's Natural History Museum. Experts say the young penguins’ actions are due to sexual inexperience.
Humboldt penguins are native to Chile and Peru and nest on islands and rocky coasts, often burrowing holes in guano. The birds’ numbers are declining due to overfishing, climate change and ocean acidification, and the animal is considered a vulnerable spcies. In 2010, Humboldt penguins were granted protection under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.
In 2009, two male Humboldt penguins at a German zoo adopted an abandoned egg. After it hatched, the penguins raised the chick as their own. In 2012, one of the 135 Humboldt penguins at the Tokyo Sea Life Park in Japan scaled a 13-foot wall and escaped into Tokyo Bay, where it thrived for 82 days until it was recaptured.
Native to New Zealand, these birds may be the most ancient of all living penguins, and they live long lives, with some individuals reaching 20 years of age. Habitat destruction, introduced predators and disease have caused the penguins’ numbers to drop to an estimated population of 4,000. In 2004, a disease linked to a genus of bacteria that causes diphtheria in humans, wiped out 60 percent of the yellow-eyed penguins chicks on the Otago Peninsula. The species is endangered.
The yellow-eyed penguin, or Hoiho, appears on the New Zealand $5 note.
Chinstrap penguins are easily recognizable by the black bands under their heads that give them the appearance of wearing helmets. They’re found in Antarctica, the Sandwich Islands and other southern island chains, where they live on barren islands and congregate on icebergs during winter. Experts consider these birds to be the most aggressive species of penguin.
In 2004, two male chinstrap penguins at the Central Park Zoo formed a pair-bond and took turns trying to “hatch” a rock. A zookeeper later substituted the rock with a fertilized egg, and Roy and Silo hatched and raised the chick. A children’s book titled “And Tango Makes Three” was written about the penguins.
These penguins are native to southern Africa and are the only penguins that breed on the continent. In fact, their presence is how the Penguin Islands got their name. African penguins are also called “jackass penguins” because of the donkey-like sounds they make. The species is endangered, with fewer than 26,000 breeding pairs remaining.
Buddy and Pedro, two of the Toronto Zoo’s African penguins, made headlines in 2011 when zookeepers announced that the pair-bonded male birds would be separated in hopes they would mate with females.
The smallest species of penguin, the little penguin grows to an average height of 13 inches and can be found on the coasts of southern Australia and New Zealand. With about 350,000 to 600,000 of the animals in the wild, the species isn’t endangered; however, people still go to great lengths to protect the birds from predation. In some parts of Australia, Maremma sheepdogs have been trained to guard penguin colonies, and in Sydney, snipers have been deployed to protect little penguins from fox and dog attacks.
Linus Torvalds, the creator of the Linux operating system, was once pecked by a little penguin, which inspired him to use a penguin as the Linux mascot.
This species of penguin is able to survive in the tropical climate of the Galapagos Islands due to the cool temperatures from the Humboldt Current. The third smallest species of penguin, the birds are particularly vulnerable to predation, and with an estimated population of around 1,500 birds, the species is endangered.
As the only penguins in the world found north of the equator, all of the Galapagos penguins are famous in their own right.