Two genera of penguin, Spheniscus and Eudyptula, live in warmer climates than any other penguins. The four Spheniscus species are distinguished from other penguins by the naked skin on their black and white heads and a stripe of black feathers down their sides. The Galapagos penguin is the northernmost of these, and lives right on the equator. The single Eudyptula species lives in Australia and New Zealand.
The Galapagos penguin, Spheniscus mendiculus, is the most tropical of all the tropical penguins. They are the rarest of penguin species, with fewer than 1,000 breeding pairs. Galapagos penguins also are the smallest penguins in the Spheniscus group, weighing less than five pounds. These penguins feed mainly on small schooling fish, primarily mullet and sardines. The surface temperature of the coastal waters fluctuates anywhere between 59 and 82 degrees Fahrenheit. Penguin prey does not flourish in warm waters, and Galapagos penguins do not breed when the waters are warmest and food supplies lowest.
The Falkland Islands and the coasts of Chile and Argentina are home to the Magellanic penguin, Spheniscus magellanicus, the only migratory Spheniscus species. These small penguins are about 2 feet tall and weigh 11 pounds on average. Magellanic penguins feed on anchovies, sardines and other small fish. The only Spheniscus species that forages off-shore, they bear the most similarities to the African penguin, their closest relative.
The African penguin, Spheniscus demersus, makes its home in South African waters. These birds grow to a height of just over two feet and weigh around seven pounds. They forage close to shore, feeding mainly on anchovies, and breed in burrows built in coastal rock crevices and cliffs. African penguins communicate to one another loudly, and their braying voices earn them the nickname “Jackass penguins.”
The Humboldt penguin, Spheniscus humboldti, lives on the coasts of Peru and Chile and islands off western South America. Like most Spheniscus penguins, these birds grow to a height of around 2 feet and weigh 9 pounds. Humboldt penguins breed in climates ranging from arid to hot and humid. They feed predominantly on small schooling fish like anchovies and sardines, typically foraging close to shore.
The Antipodean fairy or little penguin, Eudyptula minor, is the smallest of all penguins. These penguins only reach 16 inches and weigh around 2 pounds. Their hunched over, more horizontal posture on land further distinguishes these nocturnal birds from other penguin family members. They breed and spend daylight hours in coastal burrows, emerging at night to forage for small fishes close to shore.
Jennifer Mueller began writing and editing professionally in 1995, when she became sports editor of her university's newspaper while also writing a bi-monthly general interest column for an independent tourist publication. Mueller holds a Bachelor of Arts in political science from the University of North Carolina at Asheville and a Juris Doctor from Indiana University Maurer School of Law.