Habitat & Distribution


Habitat & Distribution


  1. All 17 species of penguins live in the Southern Hemisphere. See species appendix for information on distribution for each species. Penguins are found on every continent in the Southern Hemisphere. They are abundant on many temperate and subantarctic islands.


  1. Penguins generally live on islands and remote continental regions free from land predators, where their inability to fly is not detrimental to their survival.
  2. Penguins generally live in remote areas free from land predators.

  3. These highly specialized marine birds are adapted to living at sea - some species spend as much as 75% of their lives at sea. Penguins are usually found near nutrient-rich, cold-water currents that provide an abundant supply of food.
  4. Different species thrive in varying climates, ranging from Galápagos penguins on tropical islands at the equator to emperor penguins restricted to the pack ice of Antarctica.
  5. Some of the temperate penguin species inhabit tropical climates.

    These penguins are adapted to survive in the freezing
    climate of Antarctica.

  6. The seasons of the Southern Hemisphere are opposite those of the Northern Hemisphere. When continents above the equator experience spring and summer, the areas below the equator experience fall and winter.


  1. Adult penguins usually disperse from breeding rookeries to feed in coastal waters. Studies have found that adult emperor, Magellanic, and Humboldt penguins travel long distances between feeding and breeding grounds.
  2. Young birds usually disperse when they leave their colonies and may wander thousands of kilometers. They generally return to the colonies where they were hatched to molt and breed.


  1. Population data usually are gathered during the breeding season. Some researchers count chicks to estimate the total population, others count breeding pairs. The species appendix lists population estimates by species.
  2. Chinstrap penguins may be the most numerous, with a population estimated at 4 million breeding pairs. (Bird Life International, 2005)