At the end of our voyages, the chatter continues about different wildlife sightings and experiences. It’s not uncommon to have a friendly discussion on what animal you enjoyed seeing best. Between the four species of penguins we typically see on mainland Antarctica, it can be a tough call. But there’s just something about the pretty little googly-eyed Adelie penguin that captures our guests’ hearts.

Counting penguins in Antarctica

What’s In a Name

  • Adèlie penguins get their name from Adèlie Land, a region in Antarctica that was originally claimed by the French
  • The area was named Adèlie Land after Adèle Dumont d’Urville, who was married to French explorer Jules Dumont d’Urville, who first discovered this penguin in 1840
  • The latin name for Adèlie penguins is Pygoscelis adeliae, of which the ‘Pygoscelis’ portion means ‘rump legged’

Oh the Hunt

  • These birds hunt for krill, squid and small fish around shallow coastal waters. Adèlie penguins can dive fairly deep when they want to – up to depths of around 500ft
  • Adèlie penguins start hunting for themselves at just 9 weeks old
  • They are prey to Leopard Seals, Orca and large seabirds that will go after their chicks and eggs
  • Adèlie penguins will follow the sun around the Antarctic Peninsula. Since the sun never fully sets, they make the most of their time in the light
  • It’s been noted that Adélie penguins can migrate as far as 10,000 miles
  • They can leap up to 10ft in the air from the sea to land on rocks or ice
Gentoo penguins

What You See

  • Adèlie penguins are black with a white belly. They have orange bills but much of the bills are covered with black feathers. A thin white line circles their eyes. Their tails are slightly longer than other penguins’ and they are also somewhat smaller
  • The birds stand at a height of about 46 to 71cm and weigh between 3.5 to 6kg
  • Adèlies are social birds that can form rookeries with thousands of birds. There has even been a super colony with an estimated 1.5 million of them spotted!
  • These small penguins create nests by forming stones into a circle. They lay their eggs around December with each parent taking a turn to hunt while the other stays behind to incubate the egg
  • After the chicks are around 3 weeks old, the parents will leave it behind to go hunt. The soft feathered chicks huddle together for warmth in a group called a créche
Adelie Penguins in Antarctica

Funny Bird

  • Though Adèlie’s undoubtedly have a cute appearance, there’s something laughable about their eyes, which almost look like the googly eyes on a children’s toy
  • Adèlie penguins have been documented knocking their cohorts into the water from great heights, then leaning over to check to see if that penguin is ok. Only then will they follow them into the water
  • Despite carefully attending to their self-preservation, any caution they exhibit goes out the window when their curiosity gets the better of them
  • Young chicks first thrust out into the world demonstrate a lack of maturity and trouble distinguishing social cues. This has resulted in some unusual behavior being noted, including males attempting to mate with other males, dead females, or chicks that are much too young
  • Antarctic explorer Apsley Cherry-Garrard stated in his book The Worst Journey in the World: “They are extraordinarily like children, these little people of the Antarctic world, either like children or like old men, full of their own importance.”

Interested in seeing these entertaining and wonderful birds with your own eyes?

Reach out to our team to learn more about our voyages any time!