Gentoo Penguins (all 4 species)

Gentoo penguins are a species, sitting in the genus Pygoscelis, which it shares with the Adelie and the Chinstrap penguin. It has a variety of vocalisations, including trumpeting. The combined population is estimated at 774,000, though I have been unable to find estimates for the 4 species that now share this number

There was 2 subspecies (a Northern and a Southern subspecies) recognized by the International Ornithological Congress(this was increased to 4 (these are different species as the differences are to great, and they do not interbreed):

  • P. p. taeniata (eastern gentoo penguin) (Peale, 1849) – Crozet Islands, Prince Edward Islands, Kerguelen Islands, Heard Island, and Macquarie Island, 
  • P. p. papua (northern gentoo penguin) (Forster, 1781) – Falkland Islands, Martillo Island in the Beagle Channel, and Isla de los Estados (Argentina). This species appears to be moving south as the climate warms
  • P. p. ellsworthi (southern gentoo penguin) Murphy, 1947 – the Antarctic Peninsula, the South Orkney Islands, South Shetland Islands and South Sandwich Islands
  • P. p. poncetii (South Georgia gentoo penguin) Tyler, Bonfitto, Clucas, Reddy & Younger, 2020 – South Georgia Island

Although the population on the Kerguelen Islands is tentatively included in taeniata, it may also be a distinct subspecies.

Before 2021, only 2 subspecies were recognized, but a study showed that while there were actually 4, and while they look similar genetically they are not. It is easily recognized by the white patch on its head, which is called a bonnet (because of its supposed similarity to that piece of clothing).

Growing to 70-90cm in length, it is the third largest penguin. They are also the fastest underwater swimmers, reaching 36km per hour.

Breeding is done on subantarctic islands, on ice free rock. Predated by orca, sea lions and leopard seals, young are predated by birds like Skuas and giant petrels, including egg eating.

Males give females pebbles (though others including Adelie penguins also do this.

There are 380,000 breeding pairs across the 4 species, but as they were only split into 4 in 2020 there does not appear to be accurate estimates for each at the current time. Should you know these numbers, do let me know. We also hope to list tourism opportunities on this page, do let us know if you work in tourism with any of these 4 species of gentoo penguin.


See Animals Wild