8 Different Types of Penguins in South America

Penguins in South America
Photo by Derek Oyen

Penguins are some of the cutest animals around, but they are also the smartest birds. They live in colonies, and each member has its own personality. In this article, we shall discuss the different types of penguins in South America.

Penguins are very intelligent birds. They can recognize their family members from a distance, and they even have a sense of humor. Some penguins even form friendships with other penguins.

There are over 20 different species of penguins found around the world. Some live in cold climates, some in warm climates, and some in both.

While these birds are known for being adorable, they are also fascinating creatures. Let’s have a look at some of these beautiful birds.

1. Magellanic Penguin

The Magellanic is among the different species of penguins in South America. It inhabits Patagonia and Falkland Islands. However, you may sometimes see a stray individual as far north as Brazil or even Antarctica.

The Magellanic penguin is the most popular of the banded penguin species. They create closely packed colonies in shrubs or borrow during the breeding season. These penguins move in large flocks.

Every year, they mate with the same partner, and females can identify their lover by his call. Incubation lasts for 40 days, and the chicks remain together for the first 30 days. The parents alternate, keeping watch while the other swims in search of food.

The Magellanic and Humboldt penguins can be difficult to distinguish. Especially on South America’s western coast, where their ranges overlap. A Magellanic penguin has two white feather bands around its neck, but Humboldt has only one.

The IUCN classifies the Magellanic penguin as a species of the least concern. However, the species’ population is dropping mostly as a result of habitat degradation. Also the consequences of oil spills, infectious diseases, and climate change.

2. Southern Rockhopper Penguin

Second, on this list of penguins in South America is the Southern rockhopper penguin. It mostly inhabits sub-Antarctic waters.

However, its distribution extends from southern South America to various islands in the southern Pacific and Indian oceans.

They have an average height of no more than 23 inches (58 cm) and a maximum weight of about 7.5 lbs (4.4 kg). However, it is challenging to tell them apart from other rockhopper species. The southern species often have smaller yellow crest feathers.

These birds have dark heads and red eyes. Their brilliant yellow eyebrows end in long plumes that stick out from the side of their faces.

These birds jump over boulders and cracks instead of sliding on their bellies or using their flippers to climb. Southern rockhoppers have a wide range.

But most of them reside on islands near Patagonia and the Falkland Islands. These birds feed on crustaceans, krill, lanternfish, cuttlefish, and squid.

The IUCN classifies southern rockhoppers as vulnerable due to their decreasing population. The main threats to southern rockhoppers include overfishing, anthropogenic disturbances, and oil spills.

If you travel to southern Chile, there’s a high possibility you’ll see them in large numbers.

3. King Penguin

King penguins are also among the different types of penguins in South America. These penguins can grow to a maximum height of around 39 inches (100 cm) and a maximum weight of about 40 lbs.

The king and emperor penguins share many physical characteristics. However, king penguins have far more silver in their back and neck feathers.

Emperor penguin chicks have silver heads with black and white bodies when they hatch. But king penguin chicks are a solid shade of brown.

Furthermore, king and emperor penguins don’t inhabit the same regions. King penguins reside in South Georgia and the Falkland Islands.

You can also find them in Tierra del Fuego and other sub-Antarctic Islands. At the same time, emperor penguins are true Antarctic birds.

King penguins live in large breeding colonies. These colonies can include hundreds of thousands of breeding pairs. Among all penguin species, the king penguin has the longest breeding season.

You can always find chicks in a king penguin colony. This is because young king penguins don’t leave their mother until they are 14 and 16 months old. These birds eat more fish and squid than krills and other crustaceans.

4. Macaroni Penguins

Macaroni penguins are also among the different types of penguins in South America. If you travel to Antarctica as a tourist, this crested penguin is the species you are most likely to come across. Its primary range is the sub-Antarctic islands of the Atlantic and Indian oceans.

Macaroni penguins have more dark yellow crests than most other crested penguin species. It is also slightly larger than the other crested penguins in its region, with a larger bill.

This species has bright orange and yellow crests that run horizontally from the center of its forehead to its nape. This contrast nicely with its black skull. Its colorful costume is completed by its red eyes, beak, and feet.

Because macaroni penguins live in dense colonies, they have a diverse range of vocalizations and unusual nesting habits.

Macaroni colonies also exhibit low rates of predation by skuas and other birds of prey. This is because there are so many adult birds packed into a tiny space in any given rookery.

Furthermore, the macaroni penguin’s population is declining, according to the IUCN, making it vulnerable. However, it is still in large colonies on some islands, including South Georgia, South Sandwich, and the Falkland Islands.

5. Humboldt Penguin

Penguins in South America also include the Humboldt penguin. It is a medium-sized flightless bird that enjoys the Humboldt Current’s chilly waters.

Although they are related to Magellanic penguins, Humboldt penguins do not have nesting colonies on the eastern coast of South America.

Furthermore, these penguins are skilled predators that feed on pelagic fish. They enjoy eating different anchovies, silver-sided weed fish, Atlantic saury, and Araucanian herring.

Although Humboldts forage close to their colonies, they still swim several hundred miles offshore in search of food.

The Humboldt penguin is threatened by a number of problems, particularly in its Pacific Coast habitat. For instance, El Niño–La Niña variations can have a significant impact on Humboldt penguins. 

During powerful El Nios, there is suppression of nutrient-rich waters off the coast of South America. This can result in a dramatic decrease in food availability for these penguins.

Humboldts appear to be quite sensitive to human presence. Invasive species, such as feral goats, can also harm the vegetation these penguins use for nesting. As a result, the IUCN has classified the Humboldt penguin as vulnerable.

A Humboldt penguin made international headlines after escaping from Tokyo Sea Life Park by scaling a 4m high wall and a barbed wire fence. It then lasted for 82 days in Japanese waters until it was found.

6. Gentoo Penguin

Sixth on this list of penguins in South America is the Gentoo Penguin. It is a big flightless bird that lives in Antarctica and the sub-Antarctic.

There are formally two subspecies of Gentoo that are geographically separated. However, the current study suggests that there may be four subspecies.

Gentoo penguins have a reddish/orange beak, white stomach, and black head. They also have a white band around their head that makes it appear like they’re wearing white headphones.

After the emperor and king, the Gentoo is the third-largest penguin. They breed in large colonies in rocky, sandy, or grassy habitats.

While adult Gentoos are adorable, their little chicks are even more so, especially when they begin to waddle around on their own.

Furthermore, gentoos feed exclusively on Antarctic krill. You’ll often find them swimming near shore during the summer months.

The Gentoo is classified as a least concern species, but it faces the same threats as the other members of its genus.

7. Galapagos Penguin

These are also among the different types of penguins in South America. They are small, but you can easily identify them. These penguins are closely related to their Magellanic and Humboldt neighbors.

The Galápagos penguins are mostly found on Isabela and Fernandina Islands. This is where the cooler Humboldt and Cromwell currents provide abundant nutrients and food to tropical waters. 

Furthermore, the Galápagos penguin is the only penguin found in the Northern Hemisphere. The reason isn’t far-fetched because Isabela Island is located on the Equator.

This penguin is the only tropical penguin species. As a result, the species has developed many unique adaptations to stay cool. You can often see them panting at their nests in an attempt to stay cool in the hot tropical sun.

Interestingly, Galápagos penguins are one of the few monogamous penguins that form lifelong partners. Less than 1,000 breeding pairs are surviving in the wild. The species is classified as endangered due to population decline.

8. Chinstrap Penguin

Last on this list of penguins in South America is the Chinstrap Penguin. It is a little flightless bird with a striking black band of feathers under its chin that resembles a helmet chinstrap.

The chinstrap is mostly found in Antarctica. However, breeding colonies can be found as far north as the Falkland Islands.

Every year, the chinstrap creates huge breeding colonies. They only nest in rocky and sandy locations, making a circular nest out of small stones. Young chinstrap penguins are adorable. They resemble small gray puffballs until their first molt.

Furthermore, chinstraps are very noisy and aggressive. They also make an odd noise similar to a donkey braying and a squawking gull.


There you have it – the 8 different types of penguins in South America. These birds are not only cute but also intelligent! However, some of them are on the IUCN list of endangered species. We hope that you enjoyed reading this article; thanks for reading!

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