With an average high temperature of -18 degrees Fahrenheit during the warmer months, Antarctica remains one of the harshest, most frigid, and isolated lands on earth. Few animals dare to brave the bitter Antarctic cold. In fact, only six of the world's penguin species actually live on the icy continent. The following penguins are the toughest of the tough, dwelling where other creatures fear to tread.
Though they be but little, they are fierce. Adelie penguins, the smallest species of the Antarctic penguins, enter the world as twins but grow up as only children. Female Adelies simultaneously lay two eggs, so the hatchlings must fight for food. Only the strongest chick survives. These rascals also enjoy stealing pebbles from neighboring birds’ nests to build their own.
Despite their name, these penguins prefer the clean-shaven look. Easily recognizable by the narrow strip of black feathers under their chins, Chinstrap penguins can use all four limbs to climb out of the water and up steep slopes. Unlike the survival of the fittest approach of Adelie penguins, Chinstraps lay two eggs and treat both hatchlings equally.
With their regal appearance, it’s no wonder the Emperor penguins receive the most publicity in popular culture. The films “March of the Penguins” and “Happy Feet” both follow Emperor penguins through their intense breeding rituals. These penguins lay just one egg at a time and use their own bodies rather than nests to keep their young warm. They are also the only penguins that lay their eggs during the winter, when temperatures plummet to -80 degrees Fahrenheit and winds reach speeds of up to 112 miles per hour.
Gentoo penguins love to strut. Their prominent tails, vibrant red-orange bills, and white patches above their eyes make them one of the most aesthetically pleasing species of penguin. At sea, Gentoo penguins frequently form “rafts” of individuals to help one another catch prey. They prefer grass and vegetation to build their nests and tend to fight for supplies during times of scarcity.
These penguins party like it’s 1999. They even wear party hats to prove it. Macaroni penguins don bright yellow feathers across their foreheads. They lay their eggs during the summer, and the colonies they form quickly become enormous and rowdy. The parents only incubate the second egg, which emerges larger than the first and indicates a better survival rate. After 10 weeks, with their signature feathers intact, Macaroni penguins become adults and venture off on their own.
Smaller and more aggressive than Macaroni penguins, Rockhopper penguins earned their name by hopping from one boulder to the next in their rocky colonies. Although their tasseled feathers resemble those of Macaronis, Rockhoppers’ tassels do not meet between their eyes but merely extend along the sides of their brows. Perhaps the most expressive of all the Antarctic penguins, Rockhoppers emit loud cries called “ecstatic vocalization” in addition to using head shaking, waving, bowing, gesturing, and preening to communicate.
Be as fearless as the penguins, if you dare. Check out Holbrook Travel’s 2014 Antarctica trip. If you rise to the challenge, you will enjoy the beautiful Antarctic scenery, visit Tierra del Fuego National Park in Ushuaia, the world’s southernmost city, catch a glimpse of majestic whales and seabirds, and even see these little guys up close.