Be Your Own Birder

Weekly Bird: Adelie Penguin

With its icy winter blasts, accumulating snow, and frozen landscapes, January is the perfect month to enjoy penguins, and the adelie penguin is sure to warm your heart, no matter what the temperature may be outside!

Adelie Penguin – Photo by Gregory “Slobirdr” Smith

Adelie Penguin Fun Facts

  • The adelie penguin (Pygoscelis adeliae) is a member of the brushtail penguin group, distinctive for its longer, stiff, brush-like tail. The gentoo and chinstrap penguins are also part of this group.
  • The adelie penguin was named by the French Antarctic explorer, Jules Dumont d’Urville. On an expedition in 1840 he first sighted these birds and named them after his wife – Adéle.
  • These penguins are one of only two species to breed on the Antarctic continental mass. The other is the emperor penguin, which breeds even further south and closer to the pole than the adelie penguin.
  • Female adelie penguins fast for 18-22 days while they are laying their two eggs at the beginning of the breeding season. Incubation will not begin until both eggs are laid, and both parents take turns incubating the eggs while the other parent travels to feed for 10-14 days at a time.
  • Female adelie penguins tend to eat more krill, while males eat more fish. Squid are also part of these penguins’ diet.
  • Like all penguins, adelies are superb swimmers. They can dive up to 575 feet deep while hunting, and may visit hunting grounds 90 miles or more from their nesting sites. Their typical swimming speed is just 3-5 miles per hour, but they can reach speeds up to 10 miles per hour while diving or fleeing predators.
  • These penguins build their nests from pebbles, and often fight over the same pebble or steal pebbles from others’ nests to add to their own.
  • Adelies are the fiestiest of penguins, often fighting one another and showing different aggressive displays, including chasing, pecking, slapping, and growling. They are very expressive birds and move their heads and flippers more than other penguin species.
  • Adelie penguins first start to breed when they are 4-7 years old, and can live up to 15-20 years in the wild.

Adding the Adelie Penguin to Your Life List

No penguin is exceptionally easy to see, and these small Antarctic penguins can be a challenge to add to your life list. A specialized cruise or other wildlife excursion near Antarctic islands may visit Adelie penguin colonies, which can contain 100,000 nests or more, making for an extraordinary birding experience. South Georgia Island, the South Orkney Islands, and the South Sandwich Islands are home to more northern adelie colonies, though larger, more extensive colonies are found only in the Antarctic region below 60 degrees south latitude. To enjoy these penguins without the phenomenal expense of mounting an Antarctic expedition, consider visiting larger marine parks and zoos where adelie penguins are residents, including Sea World San Diego, Sea World Orlando, and AdventureWorld in Japan.

Learn More About Adelie Penguins

These resources can help you learn even more about these fun penguins…

Adelie Penguin – Photo by ravas51

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