17 Gorgeous Photos of Wild Penguins

Photographic proof that penguins are the cutest creatures in the animal kingdom.

Penguins are not as black and white as they appear. There are 17 species of these beautiful birds of the sea, all of which exist exclusively in the Southern Hemisphere. Penguins also choose the same partner to procreate with season after season. And even though they have no visible ears, they have excellent hearing that they use to find their mates. Truly, they're a wonder, on top of being some of the cutest creatures in the animal kingdom. Herein, we've gathered the most stunning images of these animals in their natural habitats, from the frosty Arctic Ocean to the sunny shores of South Africa. These gorgeous penguin photos will take your breath away.

This Loving Embrace

King penguin mating couple photos of wild penguins

King penguins, like the ones pictured here, have the longest breeding season of all penguin species, typically lasting 14 to 16 months in total. Once king penguins find their mate, they stick with them, as this adorable embrace proves.

This Tuxedo-Clad Group

Group of King penguins photos of wild penguins

When king penguins have fledged fully (meaning that they can swim and have shed their juvenile fluffy brown coat), they leave their colony. The penguins return three years later to breed—and will make this pilgrimage numerous times throughout their 20 or more years in the wild.

This Deep Sea Diver

african penguin swimming photos of wild penguins

African penguins (like the one pictured here) are the only penguin species found in South Africa. Since their habitat can get quite warm, they spend most of their days cooling off in the water.

African penguins can dive to a depth of nearly 330 feet in a matter of 50 seconds—and can stay underwater without oxygen for as long as two and a half minutes.

These Three Amigos

Penguins on iceberg in antarctica photos of wild penguins

The most abundant species of penguin in Antarctica is the chinstrap penguin (pictured here), named after the black band that sits beneath their throats.

What is perhaps most impressive about this species, according to National Geographic, is the sheer size of their colonies. The largest chinstrap penguin colony is on the uninhabited South Sandwich island of Zavodovski, where an astounding 1.2 million breeding pairs live.

These Sunset Seekers

King penguins in falkland islands photos of wild penguins

The Falkland Islands are home to more penguins than people, making it a truly magical destination.

This remote South Atlantic archipelago hosts king penguins (pictured here), along with very rare penguin species, including rockhopper penguins, gentoo penguins, Magellanic penguins, and macaroni penguins.

These Fluffy Little Chicks

group of emperor penguin chicks photos of wild penguins

These emperor penguin chicks, huddled together for warmth, are referred to as a crèche. As the chicks age, their parents feel more comfortable leaving them on their own in these groups.

According to National Geographic, crèches are a typical sight during late autumn and early winter months when the penguin parents have to gather food. Then, around December, when the warmer temperatures break up the ice that the chicks have been resting on, the youngsters are ready to venture out into the open waters.

This King-Sized Colony

king penguins st. andrew's bay south georgia photos of wild penguins

Famous for being the final resting place of famed explorer Ernest Shackleton, the remote island of South Georgia in the South Atlantic is also famous for its large population of king penguins.

Despite remaining close to the Antarctic Convergence, the waters surrounding St. Andrews Bay in South Georgia never freeze. That means the penguins don't have to migrate during the winter, which is why St. Andrews' shores are always packed full of king penguins, as you can see here.

This Doting Dad

Emperor penguin with baby chick photos of wild penguins

After a female emperor penguin lays a single egg, she'll then leave to go catch food for her family. The male penguin will protect the egg for the approximate 65 days it takes to hatch, keeping it warm with his "brood pouch," or warm layer of feathered skin near his feet. Then, according to National Geographic, right after the chick is born, the mother returns with enough food to feed her family. Could this proud penguin photo be any sweeter?

This Beautiful Belly Flop

Photo of penguin sliding on belly on snow
Robert McGillivray/Shutterstock

When they're traveling long distances, you'll often see penguins sliding across the ice on their bellies, like this emperor penguin at the Snow Hill colony in the Weddell Sea of Antarctica. Since penguins are only able to waddle with their short legs and webbed feet, this stomach slide, which is called tobogganing, is a faster, more efficient, and easier way for them to travel.

These Love Birds

Photo of penguins hold hands on rock overlooking snow

Gentoo penguins, who have orange beaks and dwell in Antarctica, form particularly long-lasting bonds, even sharing parenting responsibilities as soon as the female gentoo lays an egg. These two adorable gentoos are right out of a cinematic love story—standing on a rock, looking at each other, and holding wings.

This Brave Brood

adelie penguins jumping off iceberg in antarctica photos of wild penguins

Adélie penguins are native to the coasts of Antarctica, and are named after the wife of French explorer Jules Dumont d'Urville, who first discovered this species of penguin back in 1840.

Unlike other species of penguin, the Adélie, which are particularly small, are objects of prey for leopard seals, giant petrels, and occasionally, even killer whales. But these Adélie penguins jumping in the water don't seem scared.

These Protective Parents

Emperor penguin parents and their chick photos of wild penguins

Both the mother and father emperor penguin dedicate their existence to providing food and shelter for their newborn, according to the Australian Antarctic Division. Look at these guardians, loving on each other and their precious chicks.

These Beachcombers

Photo of penguins wandering shore of beach with rocks in ocean behind them
Sergey Uryadnikov / Shutterstock

African penguins—pictured here in the Boulders colony of Cape Town, South Africa—are the third smallest penguin species. These little guys are also known as jackass penguins because they bray like donkeys.

These Shy Guys

Fiordland crested penguins photos of wild penguins

Fiordland Crested penguins are endemic to New Zealand, breeding in small colonies along the southwestern shores of South Island and Stewart Island. Unlike other species of penguins, the Fiordland Crested penguin is shy and timid in nature.

These Kissing Cuties

Magellanic penguins in chile photos of wild penguins

Named after the explorer Ferdinand Magellan, who first discovered this species of penguin back in the 16th century, Magellanic penguins are known for the distinctive white band that loops around each of their eyes and meets at their chins. These penguins live in the southernmost parts of South America and in the Falkland Islands.

These Warm Waddlers

wild african penguins photos of wild penguins

African penguins are equipped to deal with rising temperatures due to their habitat. They lack feathers on their legs and have patches on their faces that allow any excess heat to escape—keeping them cool constantly.

This Mealtime Moment

Emperor penguin feeding its chick photos of wild penguins

After traveling upwards of 125 miles to find a plentiful amount of food for her newborn, a female emperor penguin must locate her mate and child back home at the colony. According to PBS, the female penguin has a unique call that she lets out to find her partner so that the family can be reunited successfully. And for more on the animals of the Arctic, check out these 15 Amazing Facts About Polar Bears.

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Ashley Moor
Ashley hails from Dayton, Ohio, and has more than six years of experience in print and digital media. Read more
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