The Penguins (order Sphenisciformes) are the best known, and most numerous of all Antarctica's birds. Their combined biomass accounts for about 85 per cent of the biomass of all the Antarctic birds, of which over half is Adelie penguins. Penguins are stocky, flightless birds with wings reduced to flippers with which they propel themselves through the water. On land they walk upright with a waddling gait or in short hops.

Most penguins stand 60 to 70cm high but the largest, the Emperor Penguin, stands waist high (about 1m) and weighs up to 41kg. They nest in large dense colonies with some containing 80,000 or more birds. The sight, smell and noise of any colony are unforgettable. Most build nests of stones and in them incubate one or two eggs.

Common characteristics of penguins:
Because ice covers almost all of Antarctica, penguins have to get all their food from the sea where they spend about half their time. They are able to dive very deeply (Emperors up-or down!-to 250 meters) and all are excellent swimmers. Their feet and tail act as a rudder and the flippers as propellers. They feed mostly on small fish and krill, each one captured individually. A huge amount of food is consumed by a colony of penguins over the breeding season. The Adelie penguins at Cape Crozier have been studied and it was found the adults make approximately 40 feeding trips while raising their chicks, each time bringing back half a kilogram of food. As there are 175,000 pairs at Cape Crozier about 3,500 tonnes of food is brought onto the colony for the chicks! The largest rookery is at Cape Adare which has about quarter of a million pairs.

Adelie penguins can swim very quickly-up to 15 kilometers per hour. This gives them the momentum to leap out of the water onto the shore or ice floes. (You can see some Emperors "flying"-after all, they are birds!) up out of the ocean in the "Rancho Penguino" sequence in program 4.) They can leap up to 2 meters, which is also a useful way to escape from predatory leopard seals. Other ocean predators are killer whales and on land their main predator is the skua, a bird which takes both eggs and chicks.


 • Antarctic Penguins
Images, basic information and the sounds of penguins.
 • Waddling is a good way to make up for short legs
Press release explaining that scientists have discovered that the penquin waddle helps the animal save energy.
 • Life at Sea: At Home in the Ocean
Basic information on penquins, their life at sea, blackfooted penguins in peril and an FAQ on penguins.
 • Nature: The World of Penguins
Information about penguins, how to protect them and how they are so graceful in water.
 • Pete and Barbara's Penguin Pages
Information on penguins including their life cycle, how they are threatened and where to see them.
 • Antarctic Biology
General information on the animals of Antarctica including krill, fish, birds, penguins and seals.
 • Penguins
Basic information on penguins.