Penguins and Auks

This seabird photo album comprises Penguins (Spheniscidae), and Auks (Alcidae) photographed in pelagic and coastal habitat. See Taxonomy note at the end of this page. The first gallery features portraits of several species together with some subspecies from Penguin and Auk families. Subsequent galleries display some behavioural aspects of these bird families.

The galleries contain some digitally scanned images that I captured on slide film.

Penguins and Auks

Penguin and Auk Notes

Penguins are marine and pelagic birds, mainly in cold waters of Antarctic and subantarctic, the exception is the Galapagos penguin. Auks habitat is northern hemisphere marine and pelagic often in found the neritic zone. Both families roam out at sea and only come to land to breed and raise their young. They drink salt-water and filter excess salt from their bloodstreams using salt glands located in their head above the eyes and excrete excess salt from the nostrils. Both these families have less pronounced noses than albatrosses and other Procellariiformes with grooves that guide salt excretions from the nostrils to the tip of the beak.

Red List (2019) of Threatened Species

There are eighteen penguin taxa: Five ‘Endangered’, five ‘Vulnerable’, three ‘Threatened’ and five ‘Least Concern’. Featured ‘Endangered’ species are the Yellow-eyed and Galapagos penguins. The Fiordland Penguins is ‘Vulnerable’, and the Little Penguin is ‘Least Concern’.

Auks with twenty-four taxa fare a little better with around 60% ‘Least Concern’. The featured razorbill is ‘Near Threatened’ and the Atlantic puffin ‘Vulnerable’.


Penguin Behaviour

Penguin Behaviour Notes

Male and female Yellow-eyed Penguins are similar in plumage, although the male is larger. Both share egg incubation and brooding. Our guide identified each individual by name (tagged J18047 and J18094). The female was on her nest, and the male returned from fishing at sea. I’ve included an immature that I spotted in the debris at Pilots Beach in New Zealand. I watched this individual for nearly an hour as it made its way to the waters-edge, waited for the right moment and then went for a swim.

Galapagos Penguin images Include an adult preening and immature moulting.

The gallery features little penguins photographed at Pilots Beach in New Zealand.  There is artificial lighting at Pilots Beach, but images needed capture at ISO 16000 to 25600. This site allows non-flash photography, unlike Philip Island, where they don’t allow cameras. Other common names include a Little Blue penguin, Blue penguin and Fairy Penguin. The first gallery shows a chick with blue plumage on its face, hence blue in some names.

I photographed the Fiordland Penguins on an island at the entrance to Doubtful Sound and Monro Beach on the West Coast of New Zealand.

Puffin Behaviour

Puffin Behaviour Notes

In the early nineties, before consumer digital cameras became affordable, I made several trips to stay for a few days on the island of Skomer, which is just off the Pembrokeshire Coast in Wales.  Original images are positive slide film, mostly Kodachrome 64, digitally scanned and post-processed.

Penguins and Auks Taxonomy

The Seabirds Photo Album webpage describes the higher-level taxonomy. Spheniscidae (Penguins) belong to Sphenisciformes placed in the Aequornithes (Core Waterbirds) clade while and Alcidae (Auks) are placed in suborder Lari part of the Charadriiformes. Other family members from the Charadriiformes order feature in the Waterbird Albums. I’ve grouped Penguins and Auks together in the same album for convenience.

The Little Penguin (Eudyptula minor) is a New Zealand (South Island) clade referred locally as the Little Blue or Blue Penguin. In Australia, Little Penguin (Eudyptula minor novaehollandiae) a subspecies often referred to as a Fairy Penguin. Most checklists recognise six subspecies including Eudyptula minor (nominate) and Eudyptula minor novaehollandiae.