email a friend
printable version
Gentoo Penguin Pygoscelis papua
BirdLife is updating this factsheet for the 2016 Red List
Please email us with any relevant information

This species qualifies as Near Threatened because, while some populations have apparently increased, rapid declines in some key populations are suspected to be driving a moderately rapid global population decline.

Taxonomic source(s)
Christidis, L.; Boles, W. E. 2008. Systematics and taxonomy of Australian birds. CSIRO Publishing, Collingwood, Australia.
del Hoyo, J.; Collar, N. J.; Christie, D. A.; Elliott, A.; Fishpool, L. D. C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Barcelona, Spain and Cambridge UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International.
SACC. 2006. A classification of the bird species of South America. Available at: #
Turbott, E. G. 1990. Checklist of the birds of New Zealand. Ornithological Society of New Zealand, Wellington.

Identification  51-90 cm. The third largest penguin, although body size is highly variable across its range. Males typically larger than females. Black face, head and back. Conspicuous, but variable, white patches above eyes, typically meeting across the crown. Bright red-orange bill with black along the upper mandible and at the tip. Feet, pale whitish-pink to red.

Distribution and population
Pygoscelis papua has a circumpolar breeding distribution that ranges in latitude from Cape Tuxon on the Antarctic Peninsula (65°16'S) to the Crozet Islands (46°00'S) (Lynch 2012). The three most important locations, containing 80% of the global population, are the Falkland Islands (Malvinas): 115,327 individuals (Clausen and Huin 2003), South Georgia: 98,867 individuals (South Georgia & the South Sandwich Islands) (Trathan et al. 1996) and the Antarctic Peninsula (incl. South Shetland Island): 94,751 individuals (Lynch et al. Unpublished). Other breeding sites include Kerguelen Island: 30,000-40,000 individuals (Weimerskirch et al. 1988) and Crozet Island: 9,000 individuals (Jouventin 1994) in the French Southern Territories, Heard Island (to Australia): 16,574 individuals (Woehler 1993), South Orkney Islands: 10,760 individuals (Lynch et al. Unpublished), Macquarie Island (Australia): 3,800 individuals, South Sandwich Islands: 1,572 individuals (Convey et al. 1999) and Marion Island (South Africa): 1,100 (Crawford et al. 2009). Small numbers are also found on Prince Edward Island (South Africa) and on Martillo Island and Islas de los Estados in Argentina (Bingham 1998, Ghys et al. 2008). Populations on sub-Antarctic islands may have decreased substantially in the past—at Bird Island, South Georgia by c.67% in 25 years (J. P. Croxall in litt. 1999), at Marion Island by 11% over the period 1994-1997 (Barnes 2000) and on the Falkland Islands (Malvinas) by c.45% from 1932-33 to 1995-95 (Bingham 1998)—but, now appear stable (Trathan et al. 1996, Bingham 2002, Clausen and Huin 2003, Crawford et al. 2009, Forcada and Trathan 2009). Populations may still be declining on Heard Island and on Kerguelen Island (Lescroël and Bost 2006). Populations are increasing at most sites where they are monitored on the Antarctic Peninsula, particularly at those sites at the southern extent of their breeding range (Lynch et al. 2008, Lynch 2012). Populations also appear to be increasing on the South Orkney (Forcada and Trathan 2009) and South Sandwich Islands (Convey et al. 1999). The global population was estimated at 314,000 breeding pairs (Woehler 1993), however, a more recent estimate of 387,000 pairs suggests that the population may be increasing, particularly in the south of its range (Lynch 2012).

Population justification
Population trends are difficult to establish because of large year-to-year fluctuations in the size of the breeding population, however, it is believed that several populations have experienced significant declines in the past. The global population was estimated at 314,000 breeding pairs (Woehler 1993), however, a more recent estimate of 387,000 pairs suggests that the population may be increasing, particularly in the south of its range (Lynch 2012).

Trend justification
Populations on sub-Antarctic islands are thought to have decreased substantially, although fluctuations make it difficult to ascertain long-term trends.

Nests on flat beaches or among tussock grasses in South Georgia and the Falkland Islands. Further south, on the Antarctic Peninsula, nests are typically on low lying gravel beaches and dry moraines. Colonies are much smaller than other Pygoscelids, with the largest including only c. 6,000 breeding pairs (Lynch et al. 2008). Opportunistic feeder, preying predominantly on crustaceans, fish, and squid. Preference for foraging inshore, close to the breeding colony.

Historically, egg collection was widespread on the Falkland Islands (Clausen and Pütz 2002), and some legal egg collection still continues (Otley et al. 2004). Increasing oil exploration around the Falkland Islands is a growing concern (Lynch 2012). Disturbance from tourism has been shown to cause decreased breeding productivity (Trathan et al. 2008, Lynch et al. 2009) and the associated marine traffic is likely to impact penguins foraging in inshore waters (Lynch et al. 2010). Interactions with fisheries may also be a problem (Ellis et al. 1998).

Conservation Actions Underway
None known. Conservation Actions Proposed
Continue/extend long-term monitoring of breeding colonies. Minimize disturbance to breeding colonies. Minimize oil and other pollution in breeding and foraging areas.

Barnes, K. N. 2000. The Eskom Red Data Book of birds of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland. BirdLife South Africa, Johannesburg.

Bingham, M. 1998. The distribution, abundance and population trends of Gentoo, Rockhopper and King penguins in the Falkland Islands. Oryx 32: 223-322.

Bingham, M. 2002. The decline of Falkland Islands penguins in the presence of a commercial fishing industry. Revista Chilena de Historia Natural 75: 805-818.

Clausen, A. and K. Pütz. 2002. Recent trends in diet composition and productivity of gentoo, Magellanic and rockhopper penguins in the Falkland Islands. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems 12: 51-61.

Clausen, A. P. and Huin, N. 2003. Status and numerical trends of king, gentoo, and rockhopper penguins breeding in the Falkland Islands. Waterbirds 26(4): 389-402.

Convey, P., Morton, A. and Poncet, J. 1999. Survey of marine birds and mammals of the South Sandwich Islands. Polar Record 35(193): 107-124.

Crawford, R. J. M.; Whittington, P. A.; Upfold, L.; Ryan, P. G.; Petersen, S. L.; Dyer, B. M.; Cooper, J. 2009. Recent trends in numbers of four species of penguins at the Prince Edward Islands. African Journal of Marine Science 31(3): 419-426.

del Hoyo, J.; Elliot, A.; Sargatal, J. 1992. Handbook of the Birds of the World, vol. 1: Ostrich to Ducks. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.

Ellis, S.; Croxall, J. P.; Cooper, J. 1998. Penguin conservation assessment and management plan: report from the workshop held 8-9 September 1996, Cape Town, South Africa. IUCN/SSC, Apple Valley, USA.

Forcada, J.; Trathan, P. N. 2009. Penguin responses to climate change in the Southern Ocean. Global Change Biology 15: 1618-1630.

Ghys, M. I.; Rey, A. R.; Schiavini, A. 2008. Population trend and breeding biology of Gentoo Penguin, Martillo Island, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina. Waterbirds 31(4): 625-631.

Jouventin, P. 1994. Les populations d'oiseaux marins des T.A.A.F.: résumé de 20 années de recherche. Alauda 62: 44-47.

Lescroel, A.; Bost, C. A. 2006. Recent decrease in Gentoo Penguin populations at Iles Kerguelen. Antarctic Science 18: 171-174.

Lynch, H. J., Crosbie, K., Fagan, W. F. and Naveen, R. 2010. Population trends and reproductive success at a frequently visited penguin colony on the western Antarctic Peninsula. Polar Biology 33: 493-503.

Lynch, H. J., Crosbie, K., Fagan, W. F. and Naveen, R. 2010. Spatial patterns of tour ship traffic in the Antarctic Peninsula region. Antarctic Science 22(2): 123-130.

Lynch, H. J., Fagan, W. F., Naveen, R., Trivelpiece, S. G. and Trivelpiece, W. Z. 2009. Timing of clutch initiation in Pygoscelis penguins on the Antarctic Peninsula: Towards an improved understanding of off-peak census correction factors. CCAMLR Science 16: 149-165.

Lynch, H. J.; Naveen, R.; Fagan, W. F. 2008. Censuses of penguins, Blue-eyed Shags and Southern Giant Petrel populations on the Antarctic Peninsula, 2001-2007. Marine Ornithology 36: 83-97.

Lynch, H. L. 2012. The gentoo penguin (Pygoscelis papua). In: García Borboroglu, P. G. and Boersma P. D. (eds), Biology and Conservation of the World’s penguins, University of Washington Press, Seattle U.S.A.

Otley, H.M.; Clausen, A. P.; Christie, D.J.; Pütz, K. 2004. Aspects of the breeding biology of the Gentoo Penguin Pygoscelis papua at Volunteer Beach, Falkland Islands, 2001/02. Marine Ornithology 32: 167-171.

Trathan, P. N., Daunt, F. H. J. and Murphy, E. J. (eds). 1996. South Georgia: An Ecological Atlas. British Antarctic Survey, Cambridge, UK.

Weimerskirch, H.; Zotier, R.; Jouventin, P. 1988. The avifauna of the Kerguelen islands. Emu 89: 15-29.

Woehler, E. J. 1993. The distribution and abundance of Antarctic and Subantarctic penguins. Scientific Commission on Antarctic Research, Cambridge, U.K.

Further web sources of information
Explore HBW Alive for further information on this species

Search for photos and videos, and hear sounds of this species from the Internet Bird Collection

Text account compilers
Benstead, P., Calvert, R., McClellan, R., O'Brien, A., Symes, A., Allinson, T

Croxall, J.

IUCN Red List evaluators
Butchart, S., Symes, A.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Pygoscelis papua. Downloaded from on 28/10/2016. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2016) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 28/10/2016.

This information is based upon, and updates, the information published in BirdLife International (2000) Threatened birds of the world. Barcelona and Cambridge, UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, BirdLife International (2004) Threatened birds of the world 2004 CD-ROM and BirdLife International (2008) Threatened birds of the world 2008 CD-ROM. These sources provide the information for species accounts for the birds on the IUCN Red List.

To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife

To contribute to discussions on the evaluation of the IUCN Red List status of Globally Threatened Birds, please visit BirdLife's Globally Threatened Bird Forums.

Additional resources for this species

ARKive species - Gentoo penguin (Pygoscelis papua) 0

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Near Threatened
Family Spheniscidae (Penguins)
Species name author (Forster, 1781)
Population size mature individuals
Population trend Decreasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 31,400 km2
Country endemic? No
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species