Adelie Penguin

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The Adélie Penguin, Pygoscelis adeliae, is a species of penguin common along the entire Antarctic coast. They are among the most southerly distributed of all seabirds, along with the Emperor Penguin, South Polar Skua, Wilson's Storm Petrel, Snow Petrel, and Antarctic Petrel. In 1840, French explorer Jules Dumont d'Urville named them for his wife, Adélie.



The Adélie Penguin is one of three species in the genus Pygoscelis. Mitochondrial and nuclear DNA evidence suggests the genus split from other penguins around 38 million years ago, about 2 million years after the ancestors of the genus Aptenodytes. In turn, the Adélie penguins split off from the other members of the genus around 19 million years ago.[2]

Distribution and habitat

There are 38 colonies of Adélie penguins, and there are over 5 million Adélies in the Ross Sea region. Ross Island supports a colony of approximately half a million Adélies. The Adélie penguins breed from October to February on shores around the Antarctic continent.


These penguins are mid-sized, being 46 to 75 cm (18 to 30 in) in length and 3.9 to 5.8 kg (8.6 to 12.8 lbs) in weight. Distinctive marks are the white ring surrounding the eye and the feathers at the base of the bill. These long feathers hide most of the red bill. The tail is a little longer than other penguins' tails. They are smaller than other penguin species.

Adelie penguins can swim up to 45 miles per hour.

Adelie penguins are preyed on by skua.


Like all penguins, the Adélie is highly social, foraging and nesting in groups. They are also very aggressive to other penguins that steal stones from their nest.

Specifics of their behaviour were documented extensively by Apsley Cherry Garrard (a survivor of Robert Falcon Scott’s fateful final journey to the South Pole) in his book The Worst Journey in the World. Cherry-Garrard noted; “They are extraordinarily like children, these little people of the Antarctic world, either like children or like old men, full of their own importance."[3] Certain displays of their selfishness were commented upon by Levick during his surveying of penguins in the Antarctic, "At the place where they most often went in [the water], a long terrace of ice about six feet in height ran for some hundreds of yards along the egde of the water, and here, just as on the sea-ice, crowds would stand near the brink. When they had succeeded in pushing one of their number over, all would crane their necks over the edge, and when they saw the pioneer safe in the water, the rest followed.”[4]

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