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Adelie Penguin

(Pygoscelis adeliae)

Short Description

The Adelie Penguins nest and breed on the rocky, ice-free beaches in the Antarctic, forming large colonies of tens of thousands of birds. 

There are estimated  to be over 2.5 million breeding pairs living in the Antarctica region, although accurate recordings have not been completed to date. They are not found outside the Antarctic, and are the only bird species to share this habitat with the Emperor Penguin

Long Description

Adelie Penguins are the smallest of the penguins living on the Antarctica continent. They 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.

They are one of the several stiff-tailed penguins with long tail feathers that drags the ground when they walk, and are distinguished by having a white belly, black head and back and a white ring around the eye. Feathers cover most of the short red beak.

The Adélie penguin is known to feed mainly on Antarctic krill, ice krill, Antarctic silverfish, and Glacial Squid depending on geographic location and during the chick-rearing season. Records of fossil eggshell accumulated in colonies over the last 38,000 years reveals a sudden change from a fish-based diet to krill that started two hundred years ago. This is most likely due to the decline of the Antarctic Fur Seal since the late 1700s and Baleen whales in the twentieth century. The reduction of competition from these predators has resulted in a surplus of krill, which the penguins now exploit as an easier source of food.

They are able to search for food by diving to depths of over 150 metres.

Social Groups and Activities
Adélies are truly Antarctic penguins, restricted to Antarctic coastal waters. During winter they spend their time in the pack ice, then in the summer they move south, back to the Antarctic coast.

They can live up to 15 – 16 years of age and are one of the more successful penguin species. They are aggressive birds, often dashing in to attack and intruder, especially during the breeding season.

After mating the Adelie female lays 2 eggs.The male assists with the incubation and feeding of the eggs and chicks, the chicks being one of the fastest growing of the penguin species, but usually only one chick will survive.


Breeding occurs between October to February on the shores around the Antarctic continent, South Shetland, South Orkney, South Sandwich, and Bouvetøya Islands.
Vagrant birds have been recorded as far north as South Georgia, Falkland Islands, Kerguelen, Macquarie Island, Tasmania, Heard Island, and the South Island of New Zealand.

Distribution Map

Adelie Penguin  Distribution Map


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