The Penguin Capital of the World (No, it isn’t Antarctica)

The Penguin Capital of the World (No, it isn’t Antarctica)

Where is the Penguin Capital of the World?

Information you might need for your next trivia battle:  There are 18 species of penguins in the world, and most of them do not live in Antarctica.

That’s right, Antarctica is not the penguin capital of the world. Believe it or not, that title belongs to the Falkland Islands, which roughly one million penguins call home. The Falkland Islands are perhaps best known as the site of a 74 day territorial dispute between the UK and Argentina in 1982. (The British won what is now referred to as the Falklands War, and they maintained ownership of the islands as they have done since 1833.)

The Falklands’ OTHER Claim to Fame

What makes this little group of islands the penguin capital of the world?  Well, out of the aforementioned 18 species, five of them have colonies on the Falkland Islands. Antarctica, on the other hand, is only home to four species of penguin.

Visitors to the Falklands may encounter one or more of the five penguin species who call the islands home:

1. King Penguins

These are the second largest penguins in the world, typically 28-39 inches tall and weighing 20-40 pounds. They can dive up to 1000 feet, and spend up to five minutes underwater. They do not make nests for their eggs, but rather carry their eggs around with them at all times by keeping the egg on top of their feet.

Penguin Capital of the World: King Penguins are one of five species found in the Falkland Islands.

2. Rockhopper Penguins

Smaller than their King cousins, Rockhopper penguins only measure about 20 inches tall. Their distinguishing features are red eyes and pink webbed feet. They also have yellow and black spiky feathers on their head. Their Latin name, eudyptes chrysocome, means “golden haired good diver.”

Penguin Capital of the World: Rockhopper Penguins are one of five species found in the Falkland Islands.

3. Gentoo Penguins

These penguins have a wide white stripe across the top of their head. They are the third largest penguin species, measuring 20 to 35 inches. They are the fastest underwater swimmers among penguins, reaching speeds of up to 22 miles per hour. Gentoos will not breed in ice-covered areas.

Penguin Capital of the World: Gentoo Penguins are one of five species found in the Falkland Islands.

4. Magellanic Penguins

Named for the explorer Ferdinand Magellan, who sailed around the southern tip of South America, these penguins. Their most distinguishing feature is that they have two horizontal black bands between the head and the breast. Magellanics always lay two eggs, and the parents take turns sitting on the nest and hunting for food during the 40-day incubation period.

Penguin Capital of the World: Magellanic Penguins are one of five species found in the Falkland Islands.

5. Macaroni Penguins

These penguins, like their Rockhopper kin, have bright yellow-orange plumes on their head. Their name comes from the term used in 18th-century England to describe fashions with flamboyant or excessive ornamentation. A person who adopted this fashion was labelled a macaroni, as in the song “Yankee Doodle.”

Penguin Capital of the World: Macaroni Penguins are one of five species found in the Falkland Islands.
Image of Macaroni penguin via Flickr by Liam Quinn.

What Else Is There?

Don’t be fooled into thinking that the Falklands don’t have anything to offer visitors except penguin sightings. This South Atlantic archipelago is teeming with other nature and wildlife. It also boasts an unpolluted environment with clear blue skies, vast open spaces and stunning beaches.

The Penguin Capital of the World: The Falkland Islands are made up of an archipelago of over 700 islands.
Map of the Falklands

There are over 700 islands in the archipelago, but the two largest are East Island and West Island. The capital city of Stanley, and the majority of the Islands’ population, are on the East Island. The islands vary a great deal in climate and wildlife. The western islands are drier and sunnier, while the eastern islands experience a lot of rainfall.

Besides penguins, there are many other unusual birds to see in the Falklands. For example, over 70% of the world’s black-browed albatross breed around the islands. You may also spot South American terns, striated caracara, white chinned petrel, imperial shag, and many others.

The Falkland Islands, Penguin Capital of the World, is also home to 70% of the black-browed albatross nest sites in the world.
A black-browed albatross. Photo via Flickr by blachswan

And the varied wildlife of the Falklands doesn’t stop with birds. There are some fantastic opportunities to sight marine animals too.  The Falklands are home to seals and sea lions, orca, whales, dolphins, and more.

Because of the islands’ sparse population and semi-remote location, there is a lot of unspoiled nature to enjoy, from beaches to mountains. The offshore islands in the west have jagged cliff tops and rugged peaks, some dropping steeply. Others sweep down to white sand beaches, inviting coves and boulder-strewn shores. West Falkland has a rock formation known as “Indian Village” because of its wigwam-like shapes. In contrast, the small islands to the east are flatter – but no less scenic – with open land and magnificent seashores.

The Falkland Islands are the Penguin Capital of the World, but they also offer visitors plenty of gorgeous scenery to admire too, such as Gypsy Cove.
Gypsy Cove. Photo via Flickr by nimdok.

So How Do I Get There?

Long story short: It isn’t cheap or easy. As with any island, you can only reach the Falklands by plane or boat. Flights to the Falklands depart year round from Santiago de Chile. Cruise ships, many of which continue on to Antarctica, visit the islands during the high season of December-February.

Only one location on earth can boast that it's home to five species of penguins, and it isn't Antarctica. Click here to discover what's the Penguin Capital of the World.

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