One could never imagine the number of penguins there are in the Antarctic. At the Argentinian Research station we saw over 100,000! But long before you see these cute and appealing little animals, you smell them (think overflowed toilet stool on a hot summer day. Ugh!).
We often saw groups of penguins ( a group is called a “raft”) porpoising through the water using a swimming method similar to dolphin/porpoises.
During our visit to the Antarctic region, we saw 4 different types of penguins: Magellanic, Gentoo, King, and Adélie. Unfortunately we didn’t see any of the rather unique Emperor, Chinstrap, Macaroni, or Rockhopper varieties.
Magellanic – These little guys are the most conspicuous of the penguins and mostly inhabit the warmer areas of the tip of South America. They are different from the others in that they dig burrows into the ground for living/mating. The males are the first to arrive at their home island and quickly begin digging their burrow. By the time the females arrive, the burrow is ready and the honeymoon begins. The female usually lays two eggs. Chicks hatch about 40 days later. Chicks are ready to leave the nest in about 60 to 70 days.
Gentoo – These penguins live mostly on the Antarctic peninsula and are the least aggressive and have a bright orange beak with a white patch on their heads. Unlike other varieties, they do not migrate during winter/summer. They do not dig burrows. The females lay 2 eggs and incubate them for around 35 days. Once hatched, the parents take turns feeding the chicks for an additional 80 days.
King – These are the biggest penguins that we saw on our trip. They are a spectacular bird with splashy orange feathers. Their docile nature make them a favorite among tourists. The are second in size only to their cousins, the Emperor penguins. The females lay a single egg which is kept propped on their feet and covered with their bellies. Incubation takes 56 days and up 14 months before the chick becomes independent.
Adélie – These penguins are your typical looking penguins with their black and white “suits”. They favor feeding areas around icebergs. From what we saw, they seem to be very skittish. When the ship got close, they all dived into the water. They lay two eggs. Incubation takes 35 days and the chicks become independent in 50 days.