Facts about Adelie penguin

14 Adelie penguin facts

Pygoscelis adeliae

There are 18 species of penguins on earth. Adélie penguins belong to the medium-sized ones.

They are very social animals and loyal partners. They also feel attached to their territory, returning to the same place every year during the breeding season. They form large colonies that can number over a million individuals.

Adelie penguin
Adélie penguins are the most widespread penguins in the Antarctic.
They never leave the Antarctic region.
The Adélie penguin is one out of five penguin species that live in Antarctica.
It is also one of four penguin species that nest there. Outside the breeding season, they live on sea ice, largest population live in the Ross Sea.
Among penguins, they are a medium-sized species.

Adults measure 70 to 73 cm (28-29 in) and weigh from 3.8 to 8.2 kg. to 18.1 lb). Females weigh less than males, have smaller beaks and shorter wings. 

In comparison, Emperor penguins, which are the largest species, reach a weight of about 40 kg.

They used to feed mainly on fish, but that changed about 200 years ago.

Today, krill forms the basis of their diet. They also feed on fish and cephalopods. The change in diet was inflicted by the decline of the Antarctic fur seal and baleen whales population. These animals fed on krill, significantly reducing its numbers significantly.

Now, with less food competition, krill became easier prey for the Adelie penguin. Semi-digested krill is usually what they feed to their hatchlings.

They share common ancestor with gentoo penguins and chinstrap penguins.
Adélie separated from a common ancestor about 19 million years ago.
The breeding season begins in October and lasts until February.
Adélie penguins breed on the Antarctic coast. They build a stony nest, which is well defended by parents.
Both parents take their part in egg incubation.
Female lays two eggs which hatch after 32 to 34 days. While one parent incubates the egg, the other goes in search of food. The incubating parent does not leave the stone nest and does not eat during this process.
After hatching, both parents take care of the young for about a month.

They take turns in foraging. Later, young are brought to a creche where they mature with other juveniles from the colony.

This is a good time for parents to return to the sea and get food. After about 60 days spent in creche, juvenile penguins become independent.

They are very social, probably this helps them avoid predation.

They interact with others in colonies, stay close during breeding season. In winter, they gather in groups on ice platforms and travel together from one to another.

The most common forms of communication between penguins are poses and displays. They vocalize with mates and offspring.

They migrate an average of 13,000 kilometers (8,100 miles) a year.
The longest migration ever recorded for these penguins being 17,600 kilometers (10,900 miles).
In the wild, Adélie penguins live from 5 to 16 years.

Adélie penguins are hunted primarily by leopard seals.

Their eggs fall prey to south polar skuas and sheathbills. Orcas may also hunt them, but they usually prefer larger catches.

Until the early 20th century, Adelie penguins were consumed by humans.
They were also used as a bait or for oil.
Their droppings, called guano, were used as fertilizer.
There are over 10 million adult Adélie penguins, and the total population is estimated at 14 to 16 million.

The Adélie penguin is listed by the IUCN as LC (least concern) species.

Hungry for more facts?

Related content