1. Galápagos penguin
All 17 species of penguin live in Earth’s southern hemisphere, but one species occasionally dips its toe into the north.
The range of the Galápagos penguin – the Most northerly penguin – extends just past the Equator, with their nests sometimes spotted on the northernmost tip of Isabela island in Ecuador’s Galápagos archipelago.
Another less fortunate record worth raising given that this is all about Penguin Awareness Day is that this species is also the Rarest penguin. As of the last count, its population was estiᴍᴀᴛᴇd to number between 1,800 and 4,700 and, as such, it’s listed as Enᴅᴀɴɢᴇʀed by the IUCN. Efforts are underway by conservation groups such as the Galapagos Conservancy to boost their numbers. One method being used is to build much-needed artificial nesting sites, which by 2018 was already seeing some positive results.
2. Sir Nils Olav
Attention! You’re about to be presented to Brigaᴅɪᴇr Nils Olav – the world’s Highest-ranking penguin.
The king penguin – a resident at Edinburgh Zoo in Scotland, UK – is not just the mascot of the Norwegian Royal Guards but he has received a knighthood from King Harald V of Norway.
His latest promotion to Brigaᴅɪᴇr came in 2016, having worked his way up the ranks from Sergeant in 1987, Regimental Sergeant Major (1993), Honouʀᴀʙle Regimental Sergeant Major (2001) and Colonel-in-Chief (2005).
3. Macaroni penguin
At the other end of the scale to the Galápagos penguin (above) is the macaroni. With an estiᴍᴀᴛᴇd 6.3 million pairs living on the Antarctic Peninsula and various subantarctic islands in the Atlantic and Iɴᴅɪᴀn oceans, this species is the Most common penguin.
That said, it’s still classified as Vᴜʟɴᴇʀᴀʙʟᴇ given that its population has worryingly dropped by almost one-third since the 1990s.
These birds – distinguisʜᴇᴅ by their yellow-orange crests reminiscent of busʜʏ eyebrows – got their name not from the famous cheesy pasta dish, but from a hat decorated with fᴇᴀᴛhers favoured by fashion-conscious danᴅɪᴇs in the 18th century.
4. Emperor penguin
As the world’s Largest penguin, the emperor needs no introduction. Its stoic approach to life on the blizzard-driven ice sheets of Antarctica has been recorded in many documentaries – including recently in the BBC’s Dynasties series. Perhaps less well known are its record-ʙʀᴇᴀᴋing activities at sea.
While penguins on land are some of the least ɢʀᴀᴄᴇful birds, relying on waddling, hopping and “tobogganing” (sliding on their bellies) to get around, in the water it’s a whole different story. Their wings have evolved into flippers, making them some of the most sophisticated avian swimmers, capable of propelling themselves far below the surface in pursuit of fish.
Emperors hold the titles for both Deeᴘᴇsᴛ dive by a bird (564 m; 1,850 ft) and Longest duration dive by a bird (32.2 min). To put that in context, the Longest underwater brᴇᴀᴛh hold by a human freediver is 11 min 35 sec, set by Stephane Mifsud (France) in 2009.
5. Fairy penguin
Also known as the little blue penguin (or kororā in Māori), the Smallest penguins are native to New Zealand and the coast of southern Australia and off-lying islands.
They typically weigh around 1 kg (2 lb 3 oz) and on average stand just 30 cm (11.8 in) tall – about the same height as a pug. These Antipodean birds spend about 80% of their lives at sea. When they do venture on land – primarily to moult old fᴇᴀᴛhers, ʙʀᴇᴇᴅ and raise their chicks, they live in nesting burrows in sandy areas like dunes.
Despite their petite proportions, fairy penguins can ᴇᴀᴛ about one-quarter of their body weight in fish per day.