Penguins are a group of flightless and semi-aquatic birds which are restricted to the southern hemisphere, yet inhabit a wide range of climates.

Rockhopper Penguins
Chinstrap penguins

Chinstrap penguins


Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Infraclass: Neognathae
Order: Sphenisciformes
Family: Spheniscidae


Penguins' wings have been modified into flippers allowing them to fly bullet-like through the water.

Penguins have a counter-shaded white belly, just like in great white sharks, most whales, and other marine animals. This camouflages them from attack from underneath.

Emperor penguins

Emperor penguins


The emperor penguin is the largest of the penguins, standing at 1.1m tall. An ancient penguin called Nordenskjoeld's giant penguin was possibly the tallest ever, standing at around 6ft.


Rockhopper penguins are unique in their technique of trying to jump between rocks. Penguins are not particularly well adapted for this and it can be quite comical to watch.

Emperor penguins exhibit the astonishing trait of tobogganing (also used by various other penguins) which involves the propelling of the individual along on their stomach with their feet. It is a much more efficient method of locomotion as their legs are quite small and the ice provides a low friction surface.

Galapagos penguin underwater

Galapagos penguin underwater


The most northerly penguin is the Galapagos penguin, found around the Galapagos islands off the coast of Ecuador on the equator, and you can find four different species in Antarctica. You won't find any penguins in the northern hemisphere though.

Quick Facts

  • Penguins have no knees, hence the comical waddle.
  • Penguins only mate once a year – and even then it lasts for just 10 seconds.
  • It is thought that all penguins have evolved from petrel-like flying birds which existed 50 million years ago.
  • The smallest of the penguin species can be seen as they come ashore at [The Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony] ( in New Zealand.
  • No penguins can be found in the northern hemisphere.
  • The northernmost penguin is the Galapagos penguin.
  • Their feathers are covered in a waterproof oil.
  • They have a counter-shaded white belly, just like great white sharks.
  • Emperor penguins are the tallest at 1.1m.